Snake season is upon us (even in Johnson County) — Here’s what you need to know

Copperhead sightings have been reported in nearby Douglas County. Local parks officials say the warmer summer months are when snakes are more active and likely to be encountered outdoors. Photo via Lawrence Parks and Recreation Facebook page.

As the weather continues to warm up across the region, areas around Johnson County are reporting an uptick in snake sightings — including some venomous species — and local parks officials here are giving tips for what walkers and hikers should do if they encounter these slithering creatures.

Copperhead sightings: It hasn’t happened in Johnson County so far, but parts of eastern Kansas are reporting sightings of copperheads, which are poisonous.

  • The Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department went to Facebook to post a warning about snakes becoming more active during this time of year, with a particular note about copperheads: “With heavy rains and warmer weather, snakes (including copperheads) become more active in many of our parks, their natural habitat, as they venture out and explore.”
  • The Kansas Farm Bureau also published an article Monday about a copperhead sighting on a farm in eastern Kansas.

Be aware here: Johnson County Park and Recreation District field Biologist Matt Garrett said the county has not seen an increase in venomous snakes besides normal seasonal movement.

  • However, he said, it is still good to be aware and knowledgeable on how to keep safe during this time of year.

It’s seasonal: Snakes are active during the warmer months between late March and November, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

  • “Since snakes are cold blooded, it’s common to find them basking on warm paved trails on cool mornings,” Garrett said.
  • The sightings are also a combination of native snakes looking for mates and the public being more active outdoors as the weather improves, he said.

Venomous snakes: Of the 42 species of snakes native to Kansas, there are only four that are venomous, KDWP says.

  • Of those four, only two – the copperhead and timber rattlesnake – are likely to be found this far east in the state.
  • A full guide to identify Kansas snakes you may see in the wild can be viewed here.

Safety tips: Garrett said the best the best thing you can do during snake season is be “snake aware,” which means:

  • be able to recognize common Kansas snakes,
  • watch your step,
  • wear sturdy shoes outdoors when visiting parks,
  • do not reach into areas you cannot see,
  • keep pets on leashes or under voice control due to their curious nature
  • and give snakes distance and respect.

If bitten: If you think you have been bitten by a venomous snake, KDWP says the it is best to stay as calm as possible to slow the spread of the venom.

  • The department also recommends to keep the site of the bite quiet and below the level of your heart and call 911 or get to a hospital as quickly as possible, but do not try to drive yourself.
  • It is not necessary to catch or kill the snake because a single type of antivenom is used to treat the bites.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet or ice, and never attempt to cut the bite marks and suck out the venom.

Key quote: “[Snakes] are an integral part of the ecosystems in our large regional parks,” Garret said. “We educate park users with flyers at trailheads and kiosks that they might interact with venomous snakes.”