Watch Out For Snakes!

A fear of snakes is a learned behavior, according to some psychologists and animal behaviorists. But regardless of whether or not snakes make you jump, it’s important to know how to stay safe from snakes when you head outdoors.¬†Fatal snake bites are quite rare – death from a venomous snake bite is less common than death from lightning strikes – however, snakes themselves are fairly common in Arkansas for most of the year. There’s always the chance you can encounter a snake in nature, especially during the summer.

Venomous snakes in Arkansas

Arkansas has several species of rattlesnake as well as the cottonmouth – or water moccasin – copperhead, and on rare occasion Texas coral snakes. All but the coral snake are native to Arkansas.

Most venomous snakes in Arkansas won’t strike unless they feel threatened. In other words, don’t threaten them. Snakes typically try to escape people and avoid encounters.

Knowing how to identify snakes can help keep you safe. Non-venomous snakes typically have round eyes and small nostrils. Venomous snakes often have what are called elliptical eyes – thin vertical pupils – large nostrils, and pits between the eye and nostril. While these features can often help indicate whether or not a snake is venomous, this is not always the case. These are good indicators, but you shouldn’t rely solely on these characteristics.

Avoid snakes whenever possible

Avoiding snakes is the best way to prevent snake bites while out in nature. Snakes aren’t out for blood. Snakes wait for small prey beneath logs, under rocks, in holes and crevices, in tall grass, and beneath brush. Knowing where to look can help you avoid encounters.

  • Keep an eye out for snakes, especially in areas where snakes are likely to be.
  • Don’t step directly over logs and large rocks.
  • Don’t put your hands under rocks and logs or in holes.
  • Carry trekking poles or a walking stick with you. Use a pole or stick instead of your hands to move rocks or logs. They also offer protection, and help alert snakes to your presence.
  • Wear tall boots and socks¬† that cover your ankles. Long pants won’t necessarily prevent a snake bite, but they can help offer an extra layer of protection.
  • Snakes are more active late in the evening early morning or at night during the summer.

Keep your distance

If you do encounter a snake, the best thing to do is keep your distance and wait for it to move away.

You shouldn’t try to kill snakes, even venomous snakes. Most snake bites occur while a person is trying to kill the snake. It’s also illegal to kill any native snake in Arkansas unless they “pose a reasonable threat or endangerment of persons or properties”.

Treat all snakes as though they are venomous. That is, keep your distance, and leave them alone.


Remember that snakes aren’t out to get you. You might be afraid of snakes, but they don’t like you either. Just keep an eye out, and stay a safe distance away, and you have nothing to be afraid of.

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