Rattlesnakes out early thanks to warm winter

This winter has been unseasonably warm not just for us humans, but also rattlesnakes.

ABC 7 News has seen several postings on social media about more and more snakes being killed this year because they’re finishing up their hibernation period early.

On average, one to two people in Texas die each year from venomous snake bites according to Texas Health and Human Services.

But that’s with a typical winter.

This year, it’s been unseasonably warm causing those snakes to get out and enjoy the sun a bit earlier.

“We’ve been as high here as 98-degrees in the county in the past couple of weeks and we’ve had lots of 80-degree days and that is kind of ideal temperature for snakes to start moving out of their dens,” said Texas A&M Agrilife’s Donley County extension agent Leonard Haynes.

“It has been warmer and we’ve killed more rattlesnakes this winter than I’ve ever seen,” said ranch hand Johnny Hill.

Hill said he and his boss have killed more than a dozen rattlesnakes just over the past several months.

He showed ABC 7 News around the ranch where he works and showed us where he has seen rattlesnakes most often, including an old horse barn, a calf barn and a hay barn.

“They get in here to get out of the weather when it gets cold, but they’ll go out and lay in the sun and that’s when we found a lot of them, just laying around in the sun,” said Hill.

Hill said he’s seen the most rattlesnakes at the hay barn.

He said the hay makes for great insulation to keep the snakes warm and the roof keeps them out of the wet weather.

Haynes and Hill tell ABC 7 News while the number of snake bite deaths is small, they’re extremely dangerous in rural areas.

“There are only four venomous snakes in the U.S. but certainly they do pose a threat, life or death situation, if you don’t get yourself to medical attention very soon,” Haynes said.

They said the best way to stay safe is to be aware of your surroundings and wear proper clothing.

“Most of the city people when they go to like Palo Duro Canyon or somewhere, they probably don’t think about it and they probably should. You have to be alert, be aware when you’re out here. If you have a good pair of boots, it’s hard for them to bite through a good pair of boots but they can bite above them if they’re not very tall,” said Hill.

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