One Austin resident caught quite the surprise when she went for a dip in her pool this week.
“I’m minding my own business, standing quietly in my pool working on my phone. I hear a ‘plop’ sound to my left," recalled Julee Ware. "I look … nothing there.”
Moments later, she said a very large snake popped its head up right next to her.
After scrambling out of the pool, Ware was able to grab a panicky video of the snake as it slid its way out of the water and into some nearby shrubbery.
KVUE shared that video with local reptile expert Tim Cole of Austin Reptile Service to determine what kind of snake it could be and if it could be venomous.
“It’s hard to determine for sure, but I would go with Texas rat snake due to the body shape and size,” said Cole. “I do know that is not one of the venomous snakes found in the area.”
Cole said Austinites are within range of only four venomous snakes: the broad-banded copperhead, the western cottonmouth (or water moccasin), the western diamondback rattlesnake and the Texas coral snake.
According to Austin Reptile Service, the non-venomous Texas rat snake is the most common large snake in the Austin area. Juveniles can be identified with brown blotches on gray, but adults tend to have dark gray to black blotches on red, orange, yellow or even white — which gives this snake a wide range of possible color combinations. They are known to reach around four to six feet in length.
Though Cole said rat snakes can be aggressive when cornered or captured, they are actually quite beneficial to the Austin environment, as their diets consist mainly of birds and rodents.
“These are one of the most beneficial snakes in the Austin area because of their ability to keep the rodent population down,” he writes. “They also compete with rattlesnakes for the same food source, hence keeping rattlesnakes away.”
The Austin Reptile Service said this is the only large snake in the Austin area that has the ability to climb and -- you guessed it -- it can also swim.
“I’m a grandmother of six, and I don’t swim with snakes,” Ware added. “My husband is still laughing.”
While Ware may not have ever been in any extreme danger this time around, Cole said it’s not uncommon for snakes to swim in cool waters in the summer. So, be sure not to put your hands or feet where you cannot see.
“The best thing to do when encountering a snake is to leave it alone and just walk away,” he said.
According to the Austin Reptile Service, here’s a bit more information on when and where you might be likely to encounter a snake:
- Venomous species are less likely to be encountered during hot summer days, but become more active during nighttime temperatures
- Snakes can enter yards, barns, sheds and even homes through small openings. They will mainly be entering these spaces to look for food or water, so if you have a rodent population you may be more likely to find a snake
- Dormant snakes awaken in the spring looking for food. It is also breeding season, so males will be actively seeking out females
- In the summer, daytime snake activity drops because of the heat and they will seek cooler places to hide such as under wood piles or concrete slabs
- In the fall, snakes are commonly seen during the day as they bulk up for survival for their dormant winter months
For those interested in identifying Texas snakes, Cole suggests picking up a copy of “A Field Guide to Texas Snakes” by Alan Tennant, or “Poisonous Snakes of Texas” by Andrew H. Price.
Austin Reptile Service offers snake identification and consultation, pet reptile rescue and adoption, school and classroom programs, birthday parties, and snake removal along with a property survey to point out issues attracting snakes and their remedies.
“I do try very hard to convince homeowners to leave the non-venomous snakes on the property since most of them are removing rodents that may damage homes and pass on diseases,” Cole added.
For tips on what to do when bitten by a venomous snake, go here.