South Florida’s rainy season means it’s snake season. How not to get snake-bitten

The Miami-Dade Fire Department's Venom 1 Unit gives tips on how to avoid a potentially deadly encounter with a poisonous snake while out in South Florida. McClatchy Courtesy: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

It’s rainy season in South Florida and that means it’s time for snake sightings.

Every year between April and October, snakes — which usually hide below ground — are forced out because of the rain and slither their way into the public eye.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department’s Venom One Unit has a video offering tips and suggestions to stay safe around snakes.

“Every year we see these bites come in so we thought it was important to give a reminder, that the reality is to our west is the Everglades and these snakes live among us,” Lt. Scott Mullin said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten yearly by venomous snakes and five of those people, on average, die. Mullin said there are four venomous snakes that are seen in South Florida: Coral snake, Eastern Diamond Back rattlesnake, Dusky Pigmy rattlesnake and the Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin).

Venom One, which was created in 1998 and was the first fire department-based antivenin bank in the country, is often called when someone is bit in Florida and elsewhere.

Mullin said the one thing to keep in mind is that snakes often won’t bite if they are left alone. Two weeks ago, Mullin handled a call where a man mowing the lawn encountered a Cottonmouth (also known as a Water Moccasin) and instead of leaving it alone he tried to kill it with a weed-whacker. The snake bit the man’s hand and he had to be treated in the hospital.

Mullin offered several tips, both in the video and in an interview, for people to stay safe during snake bite season:

▪ Snakes tend to be more active first thing in the morning and at night in warmer weather

▪ Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible

▪ Do not walk around outdoors without shoes on when most snakes are on the prowl for food

▪ If bitten by a snake, keep that area level and still

▪ Do not try to capture the snake, but take pictures if it is safe

▪ Call 911 as soon as possible if someone is bitten