Cleanliness is key in keeping critters out

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When it comes to keeping critters such as snakes, skunks, opossums and others out, cleanliness is key. Especially when it comes to junk piles and high weeds/grass.

Living in rural West Texas, it’s pretty common for residents to see their fair share of wildlife in their backyard, especially in the dusk/dawn hours.

After some much-needed precipitation and as we transition to summer, residents in Pampa have been concerned with what has seemed to be a slight up-tick in animal activity.

City of Pampa Animal Services Director Monty Montgomery said that isn’t the case.

“There’s always been snakes in Pampa,” City of Pampa Animal Services Director Monty Montgomery said. “Just like there’s always been opossums and skunks. Wildlife lives in the city of Pampa. From the foxes that run up and down the streets at night to the snakes. Do we have more of a snake issue now? No. There are many reasons why they might be more active and part of that is they find places to find prey and hide.”

Snakes especially like to hide in areas with wood piles, high grass and other debris piles.

“The rodents and etc. that might be attracted to your property will brings snakes in,” Montgomery said. “He’ll come to hunt there and finds something to eat. It’s easy pickins’ compared to going somewhere else.”

Pampa Police Chief Lance Richburg added that keeping junk, debris piles down and keeping grass clippings cleaned up will discourage snakes and other rodents from coming into the yard.

“It will keep rodents away which, in turn, will keep snakes away,” Richburg said.

Montgomery added the snake calls do tend to be more common this time of year because people are outside more.

“People are out more and they see things,” Montgomery said. “They are out working in the yards, cutting down weeds and see a snake.”

While the diamondback rattlesnakes are in this area, the more common snakes are of the non-venomous variety such as garter and bull snakes.

Richburg, who while at Sweetwater dealt with snakes regularly, added snakes generally don’t chase people.

“They are scared of people,” Richburg said. “But that is what makes them dangerous, because they are scared. As far as striking distance, they strike about half the length of their body.”

Snakes sense vibrations and will often stay away from areas with a lot of noise and activity.

“They are seen as predators but will act as if they are prey,” Richburg said.

Should you want to dispose of the snake yourself, use common sense and put safety first. If you don’t want to dispose of the snake yourself, slowly back away from the snake and call animal services.

“A lot of people will take care of themselves with a hoe or something, pick them up and throw them in the alley,” Richburg said. “But they are more than welcome to call animal services.”

Montgomery added it’s important keep track of the snake after you’re at a safe distance.

“It’s important someone has an eye on it,” Montgomery said. “A lot of times after we come out, someone has gone inside because they were scared of the snake and we can’t find it.”

Both rattlesnakes and bullsnakes have a warning sound ahead of striking. Pets, especially dogs, do tend to get bit as they are protective in nature. Area vets do offer rattlesnake vaccines for dogs as rattlesnakes are generally the only venomous snakes in the area.

While for humans getting bit by a rattlesnake is not a death sentence, it’s important to get to the emergency room quickly should you get bit. Younger rattlesnakes are more venomous than older rattlesnakes.

As for the more furry and legged variety of critters, it’s important to remember than opossums, skunks and foxes are opportunists.

“If you’re out here feeding your dog at 11 p.m. at night, you’re liable to go back into your house, look out your screen door and see an opossum eating with your dog,” Montgomery said. “Or even a skunk. We see that. Or if the food is leftover, they will come scrounging around.”

For what it’s worth, opossums are not very threatening and actually eat ticks. They are also less likely to contract rabies than skunks.

For more information on the animal services or to report an unwanted critter, call 806-669-5775.

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