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Trekkin' and birdin'

Snakes in LA and MS in February?

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Okay, so here's a question from a Northerner.....we're going to be spending the month of February in Natchez MS.  There are some caches that look interesting for day trips with our dog, but the last time we were south, we had 2-3 encounters with cottonmouths in Arkansas...mid-March.  What kind of viper activity could we expect say, going for the oldest cache in LA (GC763) or similar searches?  My google searching didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know in general about snake activity.

 

We aren't total snake newbies....we have our Timber Rattlers and massasaugas where we live.  It's just...those are *our* snakes and we know what to expect of them.  That first cottonmouth encounter was quite startling to us.  Thanks for any guidance.  We're looking forward to this whole snowbird experience.

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13 hours ago, Trekkin' and birdin' said:

Okay, so here's a question from a Northerner.....we're going to be spending the month of February in Natchez MS.  There are some caches that look interesting for day trips with our dog, but the last time we were south, we had 2-3 encounters with cottonmouths in Arkansas...mid-March.  What kind of viper activity could we expect say, going for the oldest cache in LA (GC763) or similar searches?  My google searching didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know in general about snake activity.

 

We aren't total snake newbies....we have our Timber Rattlers and massasaugas where we live.  It's just...those are *our* snakes and we know what to expect of them.  That first cottonmouth encounter was quite startling to us.  Thanks for any guidance.  We're looking forward to this whole snowbird experience.

 

Lived in a different state, but parallel to MS (Alabama).  Usually, February is still cool; March starts springtime.  I mention this because, just like "your" snakes, they're cold-blooded and you won't find as much activity when it's below 60 F.  That far south, they don't really hibernate but do slow down, and burrow in ... so look out for hollow logs, and other likely spots for burrowing.  Just remember that they're not in full hibernation; they're awake and usually coiled - so can strike quickly.  If it's a sunny day, you might find them out sunning - probably just like you do up there.

 

You've seen cottonmouths.  They hang out mostly near water, so also become familiar with copperheads, which I found more often even than rattlers.  They like brush/leaf or deadfall piles.  None are as aggressive as cottonmouths.

 

Pretty good site here:  http://www.snake-removal.com/cottonmouth.html .  I like it because it not only gives info on habitat and habits, it also includes a range map and links to snakes that look similar.

 

Hope that helps. 

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Thank you, that is all very helpful.  The first cottonmouth encounter surprised us with its method of striking (it missed).  Our vipers are pretty timid and not really aggressive like that was.  It's good to know where they like to hang out there....we can keep the dog's nose away from those spots.  Thanks again!

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3 hours ago, Trekkin' and birdin' said:

The first cottonmouth encounter surprised us with its method of striking (it missed).  Our vipers are pretty timid and not really aggressive like that was.  It's good to know where they like to hang out there....we can keep the dog's nose away from those spots.

 

It's rare to encounter a cottonmouth, and even then they will do everything they can to avoid humans. If snakes live at my cache spot, they may become aggravated by people (and/or dogs) messing around with the den all the time. I hope you wrote a decent log. If it was my cache, I'd want to know. I'd move my cache.

 

When the temperature is cool, there is a danger of stepping on a snake. And the temptation to not avoid a “sleeping” snake. Snakes in general will be rare, but you're much more likely to encounter non-venomous snakes, such as water snakes. These can be pretty aggressive, they bite, and that injury can be dangerous.

 

Nooks and crannies that are ideal for Geocaches might also be ideal nest areas. I've sometimes rattled my hiking stick around inside a hollow tree, but after that, I still won't reach where I can't see – I might now have a snake on high alert inside there.

 

But reaching where you can't see, you're more likely to be injured by non-snake-related things.

 

 

Edited by kunarion

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It was a really unusual situation.  It was a few years ago, when there wasn't really any winter, and we were doing a multi in a Corps of Engineers recreation area.  The cache is owned by friends of ours, so yes, they heard about it, LOL  We were actually up high above the shoals, and my husband had just said...."Walk a few feet behind, that way if I jump because of a snake, I won't knock you over."  The setting was reminiscent of what we know, Timber Rattlers.  Next thing you know, here's this snake crawling across the trail, so we stopped to check it out.  It coiled and leapt, then continued into a tree hole at trail level.  A knowledgeable person told us it was kind of early for them, it was probably just heading out for the season and going back to its hole....and we came between it and that hole.  From what we were told, they head for high ground during the colder seasons and go back by the water once they have a sense they won't be flooded.  That's what we were told, anyway.  Our friend Jeff said in all the years they'd hiked there, they'd never encountered one.  Go figure.  We're used to finding a pokey stick before putting our hands into anything, so we know that much.  ;)   We met another cottonmouth when we were doing the Exclave EC in Kentucky.  We went as far as we could, then sent our answers as best we could determine, and the cache owner allowed us to log our find.  We had less than 500 feet to the coordinates, but decided we didn't need an EC that badly!
 

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1 hour ago, Trekkin' and birdin' said:

Next thing you know, here's this snake crawling across the trail, so we stopped to check it out.  It coiled and leapt, then continued into a tree hole at trail level.

 

That must have been pretty startling!  :o

 

I've tromped around swampy areas in the Southeast for over 30 years, and hardly ever see a snake, especially not the venomous kind.  I've only ever managed to photograph two venomous ones, a copperhead and a cottonmouth.  They were each "posing", and great for pictures, staying perfectly still so I might lose interest or not notice them.  These snakes usually go out of their way to avoid encounters with people.

 

The only time I was "attacked" was by a water snake moving directly towards me.  He didn't seem to see me, and was almost up to the camera lens before we both fell over backwards and he scurried off.  But I saw a nature guide pick up a little queen snake (water snake) and it immediately bit his finger.  He said, "Oh, they do that", as he bled all over the place.  On a nature hike for kids. :o

 

One Georgia State Park is a habitat for timber rattlers ("canebrake").  They've been sighted at a couple of caches in the park, and are "huge".  I go when I read a log about them, and have yet to see one.  And when I saw the warning sign about "rattlesnake habitat", I hiked right into the forest, although it's probably impossible to see one among the leaves.  So it's especially possible to step on one.  Yeah... and about a mile from the welcome center... OK, it's not a good idea. :P

 

This cottonmouth was at the bird sanctuary, a couple of miles from my house:

 

P4266896-cottonmouth.jpg

 

P4266910.JPG

Edited by kunarion

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Those are awesome photos.  I wish I'd taken one of our guy, but we were busy trying to avoid a serious confrontation.  We did get to see why they have the name they have!  I've seen some really big Timbers, but never in such a situation to get a nice photo.  It's not unusual to scare them up along our gravel bike trail near home, sunning themselves.  There are logs from various caches in our area with Timber encounters.  We have some old quarries in the area that are now recreational areas and they'll hole up in the crevices there.  When our son was in high school, he told us about one that showed up on the soccer practice field and one of the crazier dads picked it up at the tail end and flung it over the bluff.  Stupid.  Just let the poor thing go where it wants to go, they are generally more afraid of us than most realize.

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I don't think snakes will be much of an issue in that area in February.  Not a guarantee, but I'd expect they are hunkering down, and even if they're out, they're going to be slow.

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