Dangerous South Texas Creatures

CORAL SNAKES | RATTLE SNAKES | SCORPIONS | FIRE ANTS



Coral Snakes

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Description

Coral snakes are most notable for their red, yellow, and black colored banding. Several nonvenomous species have similar coloration, however, including the Scarlet Kingsnake and the Milk Snake. In some regions, the order of the bands distinguishes between the non-venomous mimics and the venomous coral snakes, inspiring some folk rhymes. Here are four versions that apply to the Texas Coral Snake:

Red touching yellow kills a fellow; Red touching black is a friend of Jack; or
Red on yellow, kill a fellow; Red on black, venom lack; or
Red and yellow, kill a fellow; Red and black, poison lack; or
Red touches black, you're ok Jack; Red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow.


Texas Coral Snake

Most species of coral snake are small in size. North American species average around 24" in length, but specimens of up to 35" or slightly larger are not unheard of. South American species can get much larger. They are thin bodied snakes, with a head the same width as the body, small eyes, and a rounded snout. Aquatic species have flattened tails, to act as a fin, aiding in swimming.

Behavior

Coral snakes vary widely in their behavior, but most are very secretive, fossorial snakes which spend the vast majority of their time buried in the ground or in leaf litter of a rainforest floor, only coming to the surface during rains or during breeding season.

Like all elapid snakes, coral snakes use a pair of small fangs, which are fixed in the front of their top jaw, to deliver their venom. Due to the time it takes for the venom take effect, coral snakes have a tendency to hold on to a victim when biting, unlike vipers which have retractable fangs and tend to prefer to strike and let go immediately.

Coral snakes are not aggressive or prone to biting however, and account for less than a single percent of the number of snake bites each year in the United States. Most coral snake bites occur because of accidental handling of the snake while engaged in an activity like gardening.
Due to the small size of coral snakes, along with their having much smaller fangs than pit vipers, bites are frequently ineffective and have some difficulty penetrating shoes or even thick clothing. This along with the fact that coral snakes are not aggressive creatures and reclusive makes bites quite rare.

However, coral snakes are highly venomous, being the only relative of the cobra found in the New World. Despite their relatively small size, their venom is a powerful neurotoxin, quite capable of killing an adult human. No deaths related to coral snake bites have been reported in the United States since coral snake antivenin became available.

Before that time, the estimated case fatality rate was 10%. Any bite from a coral snake should be considered life threatening and immediate treatment should be sought. Often there is very little reaction around the bite area, as opposed to the pain and swelling usually associated with a viper bite, and systemic effects can delay manifestation for 8-24 hours. This potential delay in symptoms makes treating coral snake bites particularly tricky, and often results in preventative treatment whether one is displaying symptoms or not. Once the neurotoxin takes effect, it causes the neurotransmitters between the brain and muscles to malfunction. Initially symptoms are slurred speech, double vision, difficulty swallowing, but can quickly progress to muscular paralysis, and even respiratory or cardiac failure if not treated.

Wyeth manufactures a North American coral snake antivenom, also Instituto Bioclon manufactures an antivenin for coral snake species found in Mexico. A third type of antivenin is manufactured in Brazil to treat bites from some coral snake species found there. Unfortunately, no one antivenin is effective against all coral snake envenomations, and due to the relative rarity of bites from coral snakes and high cost of the antivenin, few hospitals stock it.

Diet

Most species of coral snakes are ophiophagous, feeding primarily on other, smaller species of snakes, but they will often also consume lizards, and infrequently, small rodents. Aquatic species are known to be specialists in feeding on freshwater eels, but sometimes will also consume knifefish. Coral snake venom is much stronger than is generally considered necessary to subdue their typical prey items.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Coral Snake".
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Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes

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Description

Crotalus atrox is a venomous pit viper species found in the United States and Mexico. It is likely responsible for the majority of snakebite fatalities in northern Mexico and the second greatest number in the USA after C. adamanteus.

Adults commonly grow to 120 cm in length. Specimens over 150 cm are infrequently encountered, while those over 180 cm are very rare. The maximum reported length considered to be reliable is 213 cm (Klauber, 1972). Males become much larger than females, although this difference in size does not occur until after they have reached sexual maturity.


Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

The color pattern generally consists of a dusty looking gray-brown ground color, but it may also be pinkish brown, brick red, yellowish, pinkish or chalky white. This ground color is overlaid dorsally with a series of 24-25 dorsal body blotches that are dark gray-brown to brown in color. The first of these may be a pair of short stripes that extend backwards to eventually merge. Some of the first few blotches may be somewhat rectangular, but then become more hexagonal and eventually take on a distinctive diamond shape.

The tail has 2-8 (usually 4-6) black bands separated by interspaces that are ash white or pale gray. There is a postocular stripe that is smoky gray or dark gray-brown and extends diagonally from the lower edge of the eye across the side of the head. This stripe is usually bordered below by a white stripe running from the upper preocular down to the supralabials just below and behind the eye.

Though large and bulky in appearance, C. atrox can strike up to two-thirds of its body length. That's about a three to four foot striking range for larger specimens. It strikes with two large, hollow fangs which inject venom into its prey eventually killing it (venom is lethal to small animals within minutes). The fangs are retractable and replaceable as venomous snakes lose and replace fangs often. Movement is in a rectilinear fashion (unlike sidewinders).

Diet

The diamondback eats small mammals and birds, and sometimes other reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, rabbits, mice, rats, gophers, sparrows, and ground squirrels. It eats every two to three weeks and swallows its food whole. The food is digested as it passes through the body. Its annual water consumption is about its body weight. In very dry areas it also absorbs water from its prey.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Crotalus_atrox".
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Scorpions

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Description

A scorpion is an arthropod with eight legs, belonging to the order Scorpions in the class Arachnida. This class also contains the spiders, harvestmen, mites, and ticks. There are approximately 2000 species of scorpions. They are found widely distributed south of 49 degrees N, except New Zealand and Antarctica.

The color pattern generally consists of a dusty looking gray-brown ground color, but it may also be pinkish brown, brick red, yellowish, pinkish or chalky white. This ground color is overlaid dorsally with a series of 24-25 dorsal body blotches that are dark gray-brown to brown in color. The first of these may be a pair of short stripes that extend backwards to eventually merge. Some of the first few blotches may be somewhat rectangular, but then become more hexagonal and eventually take on a distinctive diamond shape.

Scorpion

The tail has 2-8 (usually 4-6) black bands separated by interspaces that are ash white or pale gray. There is a postocular stripe that is smoky gray or dark gray-brown and extends diagonally from the lower edge of the eye across the side of the head. This stripe is usually bordered below by a white stripe running from the upper preocular down to the supralabials just below and behind the eye.

Pest Control


Wettable powder formulations provide better residual control for crawling pests when applying perimeter sprays. When using pyrethroids or other insecticides labeled for scorpion control, be sure to use the highest permissible label rate. Apply pesticides around the foundation of the building and up to 1 foot above ground level on the exterior walls. Also apply pesticides around doors, window eaves and other potential points of entry.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Scorpion".
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FIRE ANTS

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Description

Fire AntsColonies were accidentally introduced into the United States in the 1930s through the seaport of Mobile, Alabama. Cargo ships from Brazil docking at Mobile unloaded goods infested with the ants; they have since spread from Alabama to the coastal plain and piedmont of almost all of the southeastern states, as well as into California.

Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting. A person typically encounters them by inadvertently stepping into one of their mounds, which causes the ants to swarm up the person's legs, attacking en masse. The ants respond to pheromones that are released by the first ant to attack. The ants then swarm and immediately sting when any movement is sensed.

Fire Ants

Countermeasures

Red imported fire ants have virtually no natural biological control agents in the United States. Many scientists and agencies are attempting to develop methods to stop the spread of the RIFA.
Biological Methods
Traditionally, control of RIFA has been achieved through pesticide use, but current research is introducing natural enemies of the ant. The microsporidian protozoan Thelohania solenopsae and the fungus Beauveria bassiana are promising pathogens. Solenopsis daguerri (Santschi), a parasitic ant, invades RIFA colonies to replace the queen in hopes of gaining control of the colony. For this reason, its use as a biological control agent is also being explored. Also a simple introduction to an anteater may also help, but it is currently being dismissed because the anteater is currently endangered.
Physical Methods
Researchers have also been experimenting with extreme temperature change to exterminate RIFA, such as injecting liquid nitrogen or pressurized steam into RIFA nests. Folk remedies have often sought a rapid increase in temperature by soaking the nest in gasoline or kerosene and lighting it on fire, but this is potentially dangerous and should not be attempted. Further, the burning of the nest is ineffective as the soil acts as a heat shield. The confusion stems from the observed fact that fuel vapor has a near instantaneous lethal effect on the ants and that in the time it takes to pour fuel, set the source away, and then light the mound, the vapors have spread throughout the tunnels and killed the bulk of the mound.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Red_imported_fire_ant".

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