ST. LOUIS — The record-breaking flooding our region has seen this year has displaced more than just water. Animals have been pushed from their homes and are popping up in places they haven't before.
“Animals like snakes are here all the time,” said Dan Zarlenga with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Maybe it's their forked tongue or their legless slither -- something about snakes scares people. But with flooding in the area, Zarlenga said snakes are sliding into areas they haven't before.
“When we have flooding events like we've seen recently, just like people get displaced by floods, wildlife gets displaced by floods as well,” he said.
That means more opportunity to come across the sometimes-dangerous reptile in your own backyard.
“Most people are going to run away and most snakes are going to run away too,” Zarlenga said.
While snakes can be anywhere out in nature, one spot in particular they like are under rocks and logs. So if you do have to step over logs, you'd want to step on top of it first because that would startle anything that's under it, giving you a sign that snake might be nearby.
There are more than 40 different kinds of snakes in Missouri and Illinois, but only a few are venomous. Copperheads are the most common in St. Louis.
“Kind of a brownish, coppery color,” Zarlenga said, “but it's also got a series of markings along its body that kind of look like an hourglass or Hershey kisses.”
A bite from a venomous snake will usually result in two fang-like punctures and a severe burning sensation about 15 minutes after the injection. A nonvenomous snake bite will look more like deep scratches and not swell or bruise like a bite from a venomous snake.
“A majority of snake bites occur on the arms and on the hands and are typically the result of people trying to handle snakes, pick them up or kill them,” Zarlenga said.
Odds are good that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.
To learn more about snakes native to Missouri and Illinois, both the St. Louis Zoo and Powder Valley Nature Center in Kirkwood have local, venomous and non-venomous snakes on display.