Kids & Nature

Snake Safety For Kids

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snake safety for kids

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Spring is here! And in our area, spring wakes up some wildlife. Around us, the first snakes are usually the garter snake. Which proved to be true on a slightly warmer day last week.

 
My daughter has blossomed into a lover of all animals like her mother, and snakes are no exception. So, after our dog was out harassing the sprung garter snakes. I guess my 6-year-old daughter decided to intervene, unknowingly to me. I must add I love snakes, but I have a healthy respect for them. Meaning, I leave them alone if possible. But my daughter decided to pick it up with a stick and bring it up to the house. It was a pretty big shock to me. Then proceeded to want to pet it…Thankfully the snake was still moving pretty slowly, but let’s just say it was an experience. Video below!


What a perfect time to teach children about snake safety! When you have chickens they just attract snakes. Usually, because their feed brings mice, some snakes come for the eggs. Either way, snakes end up being a part of chicken life. We seem to get a lot of garters, more and more every year. It’s hard to avoid. Even if you don’t have chickens. You and your children may run across snakes, especially if you spend any time in nature.


First, it’s a good idea to teach your child a healthy respect for snakes, not fear, but understanding. Snakes are great for the ecosystem. I’m not complaining about our snakes. They keep the mice population down and I’m grateful. But they’re not puppies. (I need to still work on this with my daughter) it’s best to leave a snake alone, even if they’re not venomous. Most times they’re just crossing our path and will be on their way. Teach your child if they see a snake to stay calm, keep their distance, and let you or another adult know.


After our experience, I decided to try to teach my daughter some of the simple signs of a venomous snake.  The round pupils vs the cat eye ones. The triangle fat heads with small necks vs the softer round head and thick necks. I also showed her the venomous snakes we have in our area and the big signs. For example, the yellow tip of a baby copperhead’s tail or the obvious rattle of a rattlesnake. Because it’s hard for even adults to make an identification, I still strongly encouraged children to be taught to leave snakes alone.

Picture of two snakes focused more so on the head. Describing how to tell the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes to help kids and parents identify dangerous snakes.
Picture of two snakes focused more so on the body. Describing how to tell the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes to help kids and parents identify dangerous snakes.

Here’s a book to help you identify snakes in North America! Guide and Reference to the Snakes of Eastern and Central North America

Tips for snake safety around the house


If you have a lot of outdoor toys, it’s not a bad idea to go shake them out and make sure nothing is hiding in them before the kids go play. Things like those plastic cars or slides can have nice little pockets a snake would want to hide.

Also teach your kids to be safe and look where they’re reaching.

Copperhead snake next to baseball. Recommending parents to teach children to look before they grab something off the ground for snake safety

Keeping your yard cleared of stacks of lumber, brush, or over grown bushes could also help. Pay close attention to areas that can mimic a cave. Like around garages or retaining walls. Screen in crawl spaces or under porches.

If you have chickens, I highly recommend having a way to look into your nesting box and coop before you stick your hand in. Snakes are notorious for getting in coops.

I mentioned having chickens attracts snakes but also be aware of areas with water. Snakes also eat frogs, lizards, fish, and other little aquatic creatures. Even if they aren’t necessarily water snakes, these areas provide food and lots of good hiding places.

Snake safety when out in nature

 
When out and about in nature try to make your kids aware of snakes’ favorite places. Like I mentioned above, they love large rock areas, lots of places to hide, and great places to sunbathe. Rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, keep an eye out around the water. It’s a good rule of thumb to never stick your feet or hands in places you can’t see and again, look before you reach. Climbing up hills, being aware of what they grab. Wear real shoes when out hiking, not sandals. High-top boots add a little extra protection if you do happen to accidentally step on a snake. Snakes don’t hear well, but they can feel vibrations. So, stomping and making lots of noise can help snakes know you’re coming and get clear.

Example of a great home for snakes

What to do if someone is bitten


Hopefully, you or your child never get bitten, but If someone does get bitten by a snake, it’s best to seek medical help. Even nonvenomous snakes have nasty mouths. If someone gets bit and you don’t know what the snake is or didn’t see it, it’s best to call for emergency help. Try to keep the person calm, wash the wound, and keep the bite below heart level. Remove any jewelry that could cause issues if there’s swelling. No wraps or tourniquets, and no ice (instructions can vary depending on what part of the world you’re in). Write down what time the bite happened and if you can, also draw a circle around the affected area. This will help to see if the reaction is growing. Monitor respiration and heart rate until you can get help. Time can be pretty important if you’re dealing with a venomous snake, the sooner you can get help the better. (Disclaimer I’m not a doctor or involved in human medicine. Please always contact a professional)

Snakes are not evil or bad creatures. They’re not out to get people. In the end, snakes are just trying to survive. They go where the food is and where they think they’ll be safe. Sometimes that’s closer to our homes than we might like. Most of the time snakes are out minding their own business, but people stumble upon them. Chances are sooner or later everyone is going to come across a snake. Helping a child be prepared for when it happens can protect everyone, even the snake. Snakes should be respected not feared because fear often leads to hate. Snakes do not deserve hate. Educating children about snake safety can help create a more harmonious relationship between humans and nature.