It’s rattlesnake season in Texas. Here’s what you need to know.

Members of the Sweetwater, Texas Jaycees handle rattlesnakes at the State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Rattlesnake season in Texas starts in late February to early March. 

Members of the Sweetwater, Texas Jaycees handle rattlesnakes at the State Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. Rattlesnake season in Texas starts in late February to early March. 

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express-News

Spring is almost here – and so are the snakes

After spending months hunkered down for the winter, snakes have begun to emerge to feed and mate in Texas. This typically begins in late February or early March. 

Rattlesnakes already have started to make an appearance in Moore, a rural community about 40 minutes southwest of San Antonio. Chris Suchan, a meteorologist for News 4 San Antonio, posted a photo of the 4-foot-long snake sent to him by a homeowner.  

You might also like: Hill Country favorite Jacob's Well closed to swimmers for 'foreseeable future'

Paul Crump, a herpetologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, shared what Texans should know if they cross paths with one. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

When is rattlesnake season?  

Rattlesnakes, like all snakes and reptiles, are ectotherms. They’re cold-blooded, to use the old terminology. And that means that in order to start their metabolism and to generate energy to move and feed and mate and that kind of stuff, they need to warm up.

So they’ve been kind of hunkered down during the cooler months. So now things are starting to warm up, and they’re creeping out of their dens and hiding places to do some initial basking in the sun to get warmed up. 

And as the days and nights get warmer, they will start getting better at getting out of their winter hiding places and start going about their activities. 

What are the most common rattlesnakes around Bexar County and Hill Country? 

The most common one people will see is the Western diamondback rattlesnake. That is our most ubiquitous rattlesnake statewide. 

The quintessential diamondback has the black-and-white banded tail. A couple of other rattlesnakes have that same feature, too, but this is a really prevalent one. On average, they’re probably about 2 or 3 feet but they can get larger – up to 4 or 5 feet. 

They’re pretty distinctive-looking, in terms of their head shape and body pattern. And of course, the rattle and black-and-white tail is what gives it away. 

You might also like: We found Google Maps' highest rated parks in San Antonio. These are the best of the best.

The other rattlesnake people might see in the Hill Country is the black-tail rattlesnake. They’re more common farther west, but you do find them in Bexar County and the surrounding counties. 

They have a black tail and have similar diamond bands, but they’re more gray in color. They kind of almost match the limestone rock we get in the Hill Country. 

Where are you likely to find rattlesnakes? 

They can hide under all manner of objects and seek shelter in rocky crevices as well as other habitats. 

My predecessor used the analogy that rattlesnakes are like broken beer bottles, they can be anywhere. You don’t need to let the idea that there’s a broken beer bottle out there ruin your day by worrying about it. But you don’t want to be walking around in bare feet in places you can’t see or sticking your hands in places you can’t see either.

You can see there are just some sensible precautions that will always keep you safe. A vast majority of bites occur when people are messing with the snake. You know, trying to move it, trying to pick it up or trying to do something they shouldn’t be doing. 

You spend a lot of time with rattlesnakes. Are they aggressive? 

The most common misconception about snakes is that they’re aggressive, and they’re out to get us and that the first thing they do is bite. 

I spend a lot of time with snakes, and it’s very hard to find snakes. They do not want to give themselves away and biting is usually a last resort. 

What should you do if you come across a rattlesnake or other venomous snake? 

If you’re on the trail out hiking in the park, turn around and go the other way. Give it a wide berth as you go around it on the trail. Act calm, don’t act really sporadic and crazy. It’s not that the snake is going to chase you, like a bear or something, when you run away. 

You might also like: Texas state parks experience an influx of visitors in March. Here's when to make your reservation.

If you are close to it and act kind of wild, it’s going to respond to that in fear and move in your direction to get to its safe place. So it’s best to just act calmly, walk around and slowly give yourself 6 to 8 feet of distance between you and the snake and then move on. 

Rattlesnakes often pop up in some odd places. What can folks do to reduce those encounters? 

It’s very hard. Snakes are everywhere. Snakes are part of the glorious ecological landscape of Texas. So there’s no getting away from them. 

That said, in the spring, snakes are going to be moving around to feed and mate. But one of the things we can do is prevent them from hanging around too long. 

Keep a clean, manicured yard. Don’t have brush piles or an old rickety shed that’s going to attract rodents or anything like that. Do your best to minimize the idea of providing them shelter or food. If you do that, they’re not going to stick around. 

What might this snake season shape up to be; how are you feeling right now? 

It’s not like a qual forecast or something, where we collect all this survey data to have these cool models that tell us what the abundance of an animal is going to be based on these factors. 

So my guess is that every year, people are going to see way more snakes than usual. That’s because there’s more people than ever because every year Texas has more residents. 

So there’s more eyeballs out there looking for snakes. But my guess is that there are probably fewer snakes out there than before because we’re developing more snake habitat, and we’re using the natural places that snakes go. 

So we're probably reducing the overall habitat and thus the carrying capacity of the population. So there's probably fewer snakes out there. You know,

I don't have any data on that. That's just a trend on other things, but totally could be wrong. 

And the other thing is that we are moving. We are putting housing developments and other things into more wild spaces. So that people are moving to those newer areas and probably more likely to come into contact with snakes that were there before development was created, versus somebody who's in an established neighborhood in downtown Austin. 

Are there any other points you’d like to drive home? 

Snakes are a really important piece to our ecology, and they’re an important part of the Texas landscape. They have a really important role in food webs. They eat a lot of rodent species that we typically don’t like having around ourselves. Snake venom has also been useful in all sorts of human medicines. 

Snakes often get a bad rap, but they’re very beneficial to human populations. 

I wouldn’t let the idea of snakes in Texas ruin getting outdoors and going for a hike. Just leave them alone and give them a wide berth. Let them go on their way, and you’ll probably never see them again.