Few things are more iconic of a suburban spring day than a woman gardening next to her patio on a warm and quiet afternoon the day before Easter. This is exactly what Flower Mound resident Gail Hileman was doing when she reached behind some flowers to pull up a weed and was bitten on the hand by an 18-inch Copperhead.
Hileman was taken to the Baylor Trauma Center where she was treated for her injury and eventually released, and has been recovering ever since.
“The doctors told me that it would take about three weeks,” Hileman said. “I've really had a lot of weakness and have not felt very well. It really does take a long time.”
Hileman said that many of her friends in the Wichita Creek Estates neighborhood where she resides had informed her that they, too, had encountered Copperheads.
“I have seen one in my yard before,” Hileman said. “Two sides of my yard are creek, and we have the black Moccasin snakes out here, too.”
Hileman said that she is definitely more reticent to go out and do yard work, but said she has taken some steps to deal with the issue.
“I went out and set a bunch of traps out there,” Hileman said. “Within two hours, the same snake that bit me was caught...and I'm still going to do yard work, but I am going to take a rake with me and rake an area first before I stick my hand in something.”
Brian Hall, otherwise known as Brian the Animal Guy, said while Copperhead venom is very toxic, the snake is actually very rare in the southern Denton County region and is not usually aggressive.
“They are not very prevalent,” Hall said. “I get lots of snake calls every year. Out of more than a hundred calls, on average, I respond to about four or five for Copperheads a year.”
Hall is a private contract Animal Control Officer with Double Oak, Bartonville, Argyle, and Copper Canyon and said the Copperhead is not as apt to try and bite someone unless they feel threatened.
Hall said that when one is bitten by a Copperhead, however, immediate action is necessary.
“They are extremely venomous, and if you get bit by one, you need to seek medical attention pretty quickly,” Hall said. “The toxin is a neurotoxin, which affects the nervous system, and if not dealt with quickly, can cause a person to lose brain and motor function. It can be pretty serious.”
Hall said that, unfortunately, a Copperhead does not give any sort of warning signs, such as a Rattlesnake, and said their coloration allows them to blend into many types of environment in the area, including leaf and wood piles.
Hall said there is one major precaution people can take to prevent the likelihood of encountering a Copperhead, and he recommends everyone who might have this issue get it addressed.
“The main thing is to protect your home against rodents,” Hall said. “Their main diet is rats and mice. If you suspect you have a rodent issue, you would be attracting not only Copperheads, but many types of snakes, so it's good to do rodent control every year.”