|Updated: 5/08/2012 10:10 pm
||Published: 5/08/2012 8:29 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - More people are hiking and camping now that the weather is warmer and enjoying the Natural State, but it's not just people out and about. Animals are more active in the spring, looking to feed and mate.
Wildlife biologists have a warning for outdoor enthusiasts who may encounter creatures. It's snake season in Arkansas right now. Park rangers and wildlife biologists want people to watch out for snakes in the wild, particularly near bodies of water, bushy areas, and on rocks.
Kate Finefield is the North Little Rock Park Ranger at Burns Park, and says where people like to play is where snakes like to live.
Finefield says snakes aren't aggressive unless startled or feel threatened, but you still shouldn't mess with them. "Don't attack a snake, don't hit snakes, and don’t scream at snakes. Very calmly step away from the snake. More likely than not, the snake is going to go away."
Ken Forman, a wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission says there is a way to determine if a snake you encounter is dangerous. "If you can look at the snake’s eyes you'll notice if they are slit like a cat's. Venomous snakes in Arkansas have slit eyes, not round pupils."
Black rat snakes are very common and non-venomous. Copperheads are also seen frequently in Arkansas and are venomous, but Forman says it's been 20 years since a snake hurt anyone in the state.
Forman says as long as people step back when they see snakes, there's no reason to be afraid of them.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission puts out snake guide books for people to carry with them while you're out camping or hiking to determine which snakes are poisonous and which ones aren't.
Finefield says it’s also not uncommon for snakes to live in the city because rodents live in the city, and snakes eat rodents.
There are 6 venomous species of snakes in Arkansas, and 45 different kinds of snakes. Forman says the chances are any snake you see is likely non-venomous.
Many people are afraid of snakes. Forman says it's a learned fear. "As parents, the best plan if you see a snake is to put a lid on your own reaction. Be cautious around snakes just as you would around dogs you don't know."
If you do get bit by a snake, experts say always seek medical attention because even the non-venomous snake bites can get infected.