Snakes on a Trail!

Rattlesnakes, mostly. Western diamondbacks, mostly.


We’ve been in Texas for YEARS now and I have rarely encountered snakes. Usually they are stretched out on the road as I whizz by in my trusty Honda.

Hubs has seen more than me, and his encounters are more with live snakes – he’s usually working at dawn or dusk (the most active times) and he has more occasion to be outside in fields and whatnot.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, now that we live in the foothills of a mountain range, with a great trail system right around the corner from our house, is watch out for snakes. Since the pups and I try to get out to walk regularly, this is useful information.

I do not take this warning lightly, because I know next to nothing about how to spot snakes, and generally I tend to be attentive to dangerous things I know little about. However, I also take this advice with several grains of salt depending on who is offering it. When my spouse tells me to be on the lookout for snakes, especially around dawn, I wake up a little earlier (pre-dawn) and start using a flashlight for better visibility.

When the dog-mother whose precious baby dogs get their own live-in babysitter and birthday parties tells me that snakes are around every bend… okay maybe.

This area of the southwest is tree-less so guess what kind of snakes we have? PIT VIPERS. I love how ridiculously scary that classification term sounds: PIT viper. Not just a regular viper, but one that hangs out in shallow, hard to spot pits of doom.

Interesting factoid: pit vipers are named for heat-sensing pits in their heads, not because they live in pits (which is also generally true).

I looked up native Texas snakes because, well, why not? There are four in the state, three are pit vipers: copperheads, cottonmouths, and the most common and prolific in our neck of the woods, the rattlesnake. Western diamondback, to be precise, although we have a whole bevy of rattly-beauties.

by jeanette m otis on flickr
{image by Jeanette M. Otis on Flickr}

There’s also the colorful and elusive coral snake, which is a cobra, rather than a pit viper. The main differences are the type of venom and how they deliver poison (foldable teeth vs. non-foldable). Coral snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths aren’t huge in our neck of the woods. Apparently they all like trees and water. Wusses.

I haven’t seen any snakes on walkies yet, nor heard any (Rattlesnakes blend in really well in grassless brown desert, so they are not very visible. But they are very hear-able). I hope it stays that way.

However, if I do encounter a snake I will stay calm and still, back away slowly, and then run home and write about it here.