Netting is not a snake solution, herpetologist says

Posted Wednesday, Jul. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A preferred snake response: For help with unwanted snakes, email Mark Pyle at Ways to decrease the chance of needing help include removing the three things any wildlife needs: food, shelter and water. • Keep grass mowed • Trim shrubs off the ground • Remove dilapidated buildings, brush piles and wood piles • Stack firewood away from the house • Screen off access areas under the porch and house • Fix leaky faucets Remember that bird baths and feeders attract other wildlife, too. Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department State Herpetologist Andy Gluesenkamp

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To Andy Gluesenkamp, fine plastic mesh is an “indiscriminate killer.”

A herpetologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Gluesenkamp said the netting being used by some to kill venomous snakes like copperheads also executes non-venomous snakes, lizards, small mammals, rodents, turtles, frogs, and even birds.

The netting “is a scourge and should not be used for any type of wildlife control,” Gluesenkamp said. “If people are concerned about venomous snakes in their yards, there are various methods available that will reduce the likelihood of unwanted encounters …”

Gluesenkamp was reacting to a Cresson family’s surprise discovery that the plastic mesh they bought at a home improvement store to keep their dogs in the yard and birds and deer out of their garden was also proving fatal to what they thought were copperheads that got twisted in the netting.

Brenda Steele, a registered nurse, told people about her find in a Star-Telegram story Tuesday.

Comments on the story were overwhelmingly negative, and many said the snakes in the photos were misidentified.

Gluesenkamp and others knowledgeable about snakes said that the snakes shown in the photographs were not copperheads.

“The pictures I saw were of western coachwhip snakes,” said Mark Pyle, education director for Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society. “A copperhead is two-toned red and banded. Also the head is very flat on top, kind of a pointy nose. The coachwhip has a rounder, thinner head.”

And the coachwhip is — despite arguments by some that there are no such things — a good snake, Pyle said. They not only are nonvenomous, but also eat vermin like rats.

Gluesenkamp added that the furor generated about the use of the netting did create an opportunity to educate people about snakes.

Pyle said he was pleasantly surprised by readers’ reactions.

“I was pleased that so many people actually get it,” he said.

Steele is among those who “get it.”

“Now that I know, I’ll be replacing the netting with something that’s less dangerous,” she said. “All beings have the right to live in peace without predators or traps being set to kill them, whether on purpose or by accident as in this case.”

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans

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