Snakes on the plains

By Christina Calloway
Senior writer
ccalloway@pntonline.com

With the start of summer bringing warmer temperatures, Portales Animal Control Officer Walter Chambers said snakes will have more of a presence in these parts despite the fact they average one to three calls a month about the slithering creatures.

The snake Chambers said is most common to this area is the bullsnake, which is a non-venomous snake found in the central U.S. and northern Mexico.

Christina Calloway

Christina Calloway

Bullsnakes are often mistaken for rattlesnakes because of their behavior, according to Chambers, and have been often found in the gardens of residents.

He added rattlesnakes are typically found within the county limits and it’s rare that they travel into Portales.

“People will call about a rattlesnake, but most of the time, it’s a bullsnake,” Chamber said. “It’s been years since we’ve been called out to a residence and it was an actual rattlesnake.”

Chambers said people try to handle non-venomous snakes on their own, but he still suggests that people call animal control when they encounter a snake.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to handle it themselves,” Chambers said. “We have the equipment to remove them safely.”

Chambers said officers will pick the snakes up and release them into the county. He recommends people to not kill bullsnakes because they serve a purpose in the local ecosystem, consuming rodents and bugs.

Hailey Radloff, base manager of the New Mexico TriState CareFlight office at Roosevelt General Hospital, said within the one and-a-half years CareFlight has operated at RGH, they have not had to transport anyone in their helicopter due to a rattlesnake bite.

She said in the event that this were to happen to someone in eastern New Mexico, it would be cause for service because the patient would need treatment immediately.

“It’s a time-sensitive issue where someone does need a flight,” Radloff said. “We would have to get them to the nearest trauma center fast.”