According to the Texas Poison Center, Texas is the home of eight different kinds of rattlesnakes and there have been many stories about rattlesnakes terrorizing Seguin and other communities in the area. Some events described are: A rattler or water moccasin having crawled up through the toilet from the sewer system, a rattler coming through an open door, a rattler in the flowerbed, a rattler wriggling across the backyard, crossing the driveway or crashing a party in the backyard.
One incident describes the discovery of more than a dozen large rattlesnakes under a home and another where six snakes were found in a workshop. People have had the daylights scared out of them, but in much of Texas, they are just a part of life.
A close friend, the late Richard Kinz, archeologist and co-owner of Tri-County Surveying Company, described how he looked into a shallow ravine while surveying and spotted a piece of Indian pottery. He jumped into the gully to retrieve the pottery and found himself surrounded by more than a dozen five-foot rattlesnakes. He couldn’t move in any direction and his partner was a long distance from him. He had to stay frozen in place for hours until his partner came looking for him, got a long stick to move the snakes back and helped him out of the gully.
All these snakes around us are not going anywhere. They were here long before the settlers moved into Guadalupe County.
The Center for Poison Control estimates about 8,000 people are bitten each year by snakes but thanks to antivenins, only five or six bites are fatal. However, the cost of the anti-venom is very steep. In the developing countries, the cost is from $10 to $100 per dose. However, in the United States, the cost is about $2,000 per dose or more. Last summer, Todd Fassler was bitten by a rattler. His hospital bill was $153,161. (Google Todd Fassler.)
The Western Diamondback rattler, which is identified by the diamond-shaped markings along its back, is everywhere in Texas except the very eastern portion of the state. This would be the rattler found in the Hill Country and Guadalupe County and can grow to five feet in length.
The Timber Rattlesnake, a large brown or tan rattler, can grow up to almost five feet in length and can be found in wooded areas and swampy land, mostly in east Texas.
The Mottled Rock Rattlesnake resides mostly in the mountainous areas of west Texas and usually reaches a length of only two feet or two and a half feet.
The Banded Rock Rattlesnake is found in the western tip of Texas and is dark green or grey.
The Blacktail Rattlesnake is found throughout central Texas and west Texas and averages three to four feet long.
It is a myth that the number of rattler sections represent a years growth. They are born with just one rattle called a button, then a rattle is added each time it sheds its skin.
Rattlesnakes don’t lay eggs like some snakes. (Coral snakes lay eggs in early summer and are found throughout Guadalupe County.) The rattlers produce eggs inside their body and give birth to live, fully formed young in a litter of from one to 25. Another bit of information is the rattlesnake does not have eyelids and they can bite underwater.
Snakes consume mice, rats, small birds and other small animals and wait for their prey to come near them or they hunt for them in holes. The prey are ingested head first, which allows for limbs or wings to fold at the joints. The gastric fluids of the rattlesnake are extremely powerful for ingesting flesh as well as bone.
Copperheads do not have the bad reputation of the rattlesnake. Of 2,671 copperhead bites reported in Texas between 2012 and 2018, none were fatal. However, the antivenin could cost as much as $50,000.
With more than 8,000 poisonous snake bites per year, it is possible you may get bitten or be present when another person is bitten. My boot was struck by a rattler when I was a teenager when walking down a brushy path. I also stepped on a water moccasin when shoving a canoe into the water, so these snakes will make you step lively.
These tips may be valuable:
• The best snakebite kit is a cell phone and and a set of car keys.
• Don’t cut the snake bite or attempt to suck out the venom.
• Don’t apply cold or ice.
• Do not apply a tourniquet to bitten limbs. Tourniquets can cause more damage than the venom.
• Immobilize the bite site and keep it lower than heart level. Do not elevate limbs.
• Call 9-1-1 if a great distance from medical care. The ambulance will meet you half way.
• Time is tissue. The faster a victim receives antivenin, the less tissue is destroyed, especially if received within three hours.
• There is also a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs and horses. Although vaccine isn’t available for cats, there is anecdotal evidence that it could work.
There are four different poisonous snakes in Guadalupe County: the rattlesnake, water moccasin, copperhead and coral snake. There are more than 16 different coral snakes and there are many look-a-like snakes that are mistaken for the coral snake.
The coral snake can be identified by the rhyme: Red touches black, safe for Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow. The coral snake will have bands of red touching smaller bands of yellow. These snakes are not aggressive and account for fewer that 1% of the snake bites.
The harmless rat snake is often mistaken for a dangerous rattlesnake, especially when it feels threatened and starts beating its tail against sticks and leaves. Similarly, several different water snakes are mistaken for the water moccasin. If you are close enough to a water snake and can see the mouth and it looks like a ball of cotton, you’ll know it is a water moccasin (aka cottonmouth).
This column started out about rattlesnakes. However, I kept running across information about all the poisonous snakes in Guadalupe county.
Enjoy your walks in the woods and working in the flowerbeds. Just watch where you step or which weeds you pull.