CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - As the temperatures warm up, snakes are coming out and surprising unsuspecting homeowners. While some can be dangerous, others can be nice to keep in your yard.
Do you know how to tell the difference?
There are some easy ways you can tell the difference between a venomous snake like the copperhead from harmless ones like this eastern hognose.
Sara Turner manages the Cape Girardeau Nature Center and says it's common for people to think every snake they see is venomous
"At the Cape County North Park a lot of people tell us there are copperheads swimming in the water, and most of the time they're northern water snakes mistakenly identified," she said.
Turner says it's best to give snakes their space and try to identify them by their pattern or other features from a distance.
"So venomous snakes have heat sensing pits, they have fangs, and then they have elliptical pupils. Whereas a non-venomous snake will have round pupils, no heat sensing pits, no fangs," she added.
Officer Ty Metzger with Cape Girardeau Police Department helps capture unwanted snakes on people's property.
"Usually every call that we get it is a venomous snake, and when we get there nine times out of ten it is not," he said.
For people who can't live with any type of snake, Officer Metzeger suggests keeping your yard clean.
"Get rid of your brush piles," he said. "Get rid of any blocks, any old lumber that might be sitting in your yard, anything that can create a small little habitat, a small little home because they will find it."
But Turner says non-venomous snakes can be beneficial because they eat mice and other rodents so they don't get inside your home or eat your crops.
"For instance, the speckled king snake and the milk snake are immune to the venom of venomous snakes, so when you have those snakes around, you want to keep them around because they can actually help control the populations of the venomous snakes that you don't want around," said Turner.
In her experiences with venomous snakes, Turner says tend to be secretive and will protect themselves if you get too close.
She suggests watching your step when you're outside and remembering that a snake is just as scared of you as you are of it.
"What we do here at the Nature Center is try to show families that snakes are for the most part harmless," Turner said. "We let them touch the snakes, encouraging them not to touch them out in the wild not knowing what that snake's personality is. But to show them that the snake is just doing it's part in this world its ecosystem to survive and they're not out to get them."