Warmer weather makes venomous snake bites more likely, especially in spring, one study finds.
Most people know that snakes are ectotherms (cold-blooded), so when you think of climate change and warmer weather- snakes must like the heat, right? No, not necessarily. Snakes actually have a very specific temperature range that they prefer. Not too cold, not too hot. Yes, like Goldilocks. Warmer weather does tend to make snakes more active, but too warm and snakes will retreat to escape the heat. During July in the U.S., snakes are most active at dawn and dusk. If you are walking, hiking, biking or working outside during that time to escape the heat- be snake aware.
When it comes to how snakes will adapt to alter their behavior due to climate change, scientists are not sure. But one study from GeoHealth, based in Georgia, is looking to find out how snake behavior is changing.
"Climate change is not only making Georgia hotter but also increasing the likelihood of snake bite, according to [this] new study. Every degree Celsius of daily temperature increase corresponds with about a 6% increase in snake bites, researchers found.”
One lead researcher from the study, Scovronick “speculated that the spring association could be because snakes "wake up" during that season, becoming more active and reproducing, while summer days could reach temperatures warm enough to slow snakes down. But that needs further exploration with species-level detail, he said. Other meteorological factors, such as humidity, had weaker or no associations with the rate of venomous snake bites.”
As human development is expanding throughout the country, it is likely that snake-human interactions are going to increase. It is important workers and the public are properly educated. "Let people know what habitats snakes favor, such as places with dense groundcover, and they can be wary of such habitats. Snakes and people can live compatibly, even venomous snakes, as long as we respect and understand their habitats and needs."
While more studies need to be conducted, it is possible that springtime may mean more activity for snakes across the U.S. Then, by mid-summer we may see less interaction. Once we enter late-summer, snakes will begin moving more often again as they move towards their hibernacula for the winter.
American Geophysical Union. (2023, July 11). Warmer weather makes venomous snake bites more likely, especially in spring. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 13, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/07/230711133302.htm
Mariah Landry, Rohan D’Souza, Shannon Moss, Howard H. Chang, Stefanie Ebelt, Lawrence Wilson, Noah Scovronick. The Association Between Ambient Temperature and Snakebite in Georgia, USA: A Case‐Crossover Study. GeoHealth, 2023; 7 (7) DOI: 10.1029/2022GH000781
Adaptation Environmental Team: Bryon, Joe, and Kelly