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Spring is here and outdoor activity is at its peak in Dallas parks and on trails. While you are out, keep in mind that if it feels really good to you, it probably feels really good for a lot of wild animals. That of course includes snakes.
Once the air temperature averages 65 degrees, snakes will be active. Daylight hours are typically a time when snakes are in their resting areas that have a temperature ranging from 73 degrees to 88 degrees. It is not uncommon to see a snake laying on concrete trails/paths and roadways in the evening and morning hours, in search of a location to warm up. As temperatures increase (>90°F), snakes will be less active or noticeable during the day, and will become more crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) or nocturnal (active at night) as a means to avoid hot temperatures. Keep this in mind during your outdoor activities.
There are 30 plus species of snakes found in the Dallas area. The vast majority are perfectly harmless, nonvenomous snakes. By far, the most common species seen around Dallas is the Texas Rat Snake. This species can get rather large (5+ feet long), and is great for rodent control. A large population of rat snakes is a strong indicator of a large population of rodents in the area. Two extremely common small snakes in Dallas are the Western Ribbon Snake and the Texas Brown Snake, whose diet consists of earthworms and snails.
Waters snakes are a common sighting around our lakes, rivers and creeks. The vast majority of water snakes seen in Dallas are nonvenomous Blotched Water Snakes and Diamondback Water Snakes. If a water source has frogs in it, it will have one of these two snakes, if not both.
There are 4 species of venomous snakes that can be found in the Dallas area. Copperheads, the Southern Copperhead (found in East Dallas) and the Broad Banded Copperhead (found in West Dallas), Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Cottonmouths and Texas Coral Snake.
The 2 species of Copperheads enjoy consuming very small prey like mice and lizards. Pay special attention if you notice a lot of cicadas around, which is a favorite insect of copperheads. The removed “more common” Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is found in southwest Dallas, especially around the escarpment.
Normally a docile reptile, the Western Diamondback Rattlensnake will usually give a warning if you get too close (hence the name), unless you are unfortunate enough to step on it.
Cottonmouths, while found in Dallas, are rarely seen. Most snakes seen in the water are the two nonvenomous Blotched Water Snakes and Diamondback Water Snakes, not cottonmouths. A very common myth is that Cottonmouths will chase you. They are a very curious snake, so movement in water may attract their attention, once they realize it is not a fish, they will likely lose interest. The Texas Coral Snake is rarely seen in Dallas, but could be in any natural area in Dallas. Though their venom is very strong, they are a pretty docile species. If you leave them alone, you won’t have an issue. One big misconception with coral snakes, they DO NOT have to chew on you, if they bite they are capable of dangerous bite just hitting you, and they can bite any body part. Again, just don't mess with them.
A surprising number of bites occur when people are trying to kill or otherwise handle snakes. If you have a dog, the BEST thing you can do is keep them on a leash and in your control.