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Snake sightings more prevalent in summertime

Lt. Col. Bart Hughes, chief 50th Space Wing plans and programs, encountered this bull snake on the running trail north of the Schriever Fitness Center recently. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Bart Hughes)

Lt. Col. Bart Hughes, chief 50th Space Wing plans and programs, encountered this bull snake on the running trail north of the Schriever Fitness Center recently. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col. Bart Hughes)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Lt. Col. Bart Hughes took in a morning run north of the fitness center recently when he noticed a peculiar object ahead on the trail.

As he approached, the object, which looked like a stick from a distance, began to move and finally, as he was just a few feet away, it slithered away into the grass.

"It's not common to encounter snakes on base," said Andy Jensen, 50th Civil Engineer Squadron environmental flight chief said. "But, they do live here; the base is a great habitat for many varieties of snakes, including the poisonous ones."

Master Sgt. Tawanna Sellars, 50th Space Wing ground safety manager, said the safety office receives reports of snake sightings occasionally, most often this time of year, around the running trails and the base perimeter fence.

"There are some areas of the running trails where the wild grass grows tall on both sides," she said. "Those seem to be the places where people encounter snakes the most."

Since snakes are cold-blooded, they often take the opportunity to warm themselves on the pavement, which heats up on sunny days, according to Jensen.

With that in mind, Sellars advises people to exercise caution when encountering nature's vipers.

"Understand that snakes are typically not aggressive," she said. "If you see a snake, step back and allow it to proceed."

Jensen said that if anyone encounters a snake in a populated area, such as in or near a building, call the 50 CES environmental flight at 567-3360, otherwise, back away to a safe distance and choose another route.

"Typically when we get calls about snakes out on the running trails, the snake has always left the area by the time we arrive," Jensen said. "People need to remember, this area is snake habitat. Trying to remove them is not in our best interest. The best course of action is to leave a snake alone and it will eventually leave the area."

During his encounter, Hughes had time to take a photo of the snake before it slithered away.

"It was about an 8-foot bull snake," he said. "Unfortunately, it looks like a rattle snake, minus the rattle of course, but that's why bull snakes often get killed unnecessarily. People mistake them for rattlers."

Though Sellars witnessed a large snake cross Enoch Road west of Building 20 a few weeks ago, she explained that people are more likely to be injured by snakes when clearing or removing debris outdoors. The following are tips and information she recommends for people who may encounter snakes.

 When removing debris, watch placement of hands and feet. If possible, don't place fingers under the debris being moved. Wear heavy gloves and high boots.

 Watch for snakes sunning on fallen trees, limbs or other debris.

 A snake's striking distance is about half the total length of the snake.

 If bitten, note the color and the shape of the snake's head to help with treatment.

 Keep victims still and calm to slow the spread of venom. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

 Do not cut the wound or attempt to suck out venom. Apply first aid: lay the person down so the bite is below the level of the heart and cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.


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