My son is a toddler now, so we’re getting out to enjoy all our community has to offer. In recent months, we’ve visited three community organizations and participated in outreach and learning opportunities. They’ve been amazing. We’ve loved them. The outreach teams have been fantastic. We’ve had fun and learned so much. And it is no way my intent to detract from these incredible programs and resources.
But I have a concern.
Each time we visit, my toddler is asked if he wants to touch a snake.
Thankfully, his response has always been “no,” and this last time, we got an excited and enthusiastic, “I don’t!”
I understand why that question is being asked. I understand that not all snakes are venomous. I know they play an important role in our ecosystem. I know we shouldn’t teach our kids to fear snakes. But here is my concern.
Snakes live all over North America, and especially South Texas. Their natural habitat is where we live, swim, and hike. There are more species of snakes than I care to count. Some are venomous. Most are not. But my toddler it too young to know the difference. Heck, most of us adults don’t know the difference.
I don’t want my son to be scared of snakes, but I do want him to respect them. I want him to know what to do if he sees one, and that means not to touch it.
My parents have a ranch in the country. Seeing a snake is not uncommon. It could be a grass snake. Maybe it’s a blue indigo. It could be harmless. But it could also be a rattlesnake, water moccasin, coral snake, or copperhead. None of those are snakes I want my son to mess with.
In recent years, my husband and I have discussed moving out into the country. Again, we think and talk about snakes. We know that if we mind our own business, snakes should leave us alone. But our toddler, who may or probably won’t listen, doesn’t know that. And that makes me nervous.
So I’ve been doing some research. How can we stay safe? How do we teach our kids about snakes? What should we do if someone is bitten? Here are some ideas.
How can we teach our kids about snakes?
One blog suggested role play to teach kids snake safety. I love this idea! Use a snake toy or other object to hide around the house or yard. When your child sees this, have them react accordingly. You can teach your child how to reach if they see a snake, and also how to use the phone and call for help if you or someone else gets bitten.
Talk about snakes when you see them in cartoons, stories, and books
We have tons of books with pictures of snakes. After all, “s” is for snake. Heck, there’s even an episode of Blaze and the Monster Machines where snakes are on the loose! Use these as teaching moments. Talk about where snakes live, what they eat, and what scares them. Talk about how we can stay safe and what to do if we see a snake.
How can we stay safe?
Wear closed toed shoes and loose fitting pants
If you are in a rural area, wear closed toed shoes and loose fitting pants. No flip flops.
Avoid areas with debris or tall grass
The times I have seen snakes have generally been under debris or in areas with tall grass. As a child, I saw two at popular watering holes in the Hill Country. I saw another, where I expected it, in a trailer bed, under a bunch of junk I was unloading at the ranch. The two others were spotted when I was walking or driving. The snakes were crossing our path and had just as little interest in me as I did in them. I gave them their space. They kept moving.
Watch your step
You know that saying about a “snake in the grass?” It’s because snakes are hard to see. They blend in. Watch where you put your feet. No one likes being stepped on. Do not step or reach where you cannot see.
What should we do if we see a snake?
Let the snake go about its business. Most snakes aren’t interested in you and want to leave you alone. Give them the chance.
Move away when it is safe
The snake wants to get away too. Stay still and let it go where it’s headed.
Do not reach out to touch, scare, or try to kill the snake
Most snake bites occur when snakes are provoked. Recently, a man in Arizona was bitten by a rattlesnake when he tried to throw it on the barbecue pit. It bit him in the face and chest. The man survived. But learn from him. Don’t do that.
What should we do if someone gets a snake bite?
If someone is bitten, immediately call 9-1-1
If you can safely recall or identify the snake, do so in case antivenom treatment is needed.
Some sites recommend taking a picture of the snake if you can, as nonvenomous snakes bite too and different snakes require different antivenom. My opinion? Be safe, stay calm, and if it slows you down, don’t let photography come before seeking medical care.
Note the time of the snake bite
Keep the site of the bite below the heart
Do not ice the wound or apply a trouniquet
This seems counter intuitive, but cooling the wound does not help. Same goes with applying a tourniquet.