When it comes to learning more about Texas critters, I decided to reach out to the Critterman himself, David Kleven. Critterman was recently in the Lake Travis area at the Lake Travis Community Library talking about wildlife with a couple of his critter pals on-hand to educate and entertain — “edutain” — everyone.
Critterman has been featured on the Discovery Network’s Animal Planet and has worked with other famous animal experts like Jack Hanna, Jeff Corwin and the Kratt brothers.
According to Kleven, the most popular critter people call and email him about is our slithery friend, the snake. Obviously snakes are scary since many of them are poisonous. Then again, many are actually harmless garden snakes that fear humans as much as we fear them. I had the opportunity to discuss a few critters with Kleven for a quick summertime education:
Be Critter Smart
“The majority of incidents where a person gets bitten by a snake is because they weren’t paying attention to where they were walking,” says Kleven. “This is Texas! Those snakes were here long before we were, so we need to know how to live with them, because they aren’t going anywhere.”
Kleven says you have to be smart and keep your eyes open. Watch where you’re going. Literally! “That’s why Texans have cowboy boots,” Kleven laughs. Cowboy boots are the perfect type of protection for your feet and lower legs if you’re outside working or camping or exploring, so if you do encounter a snake, you’re a lot better off.
Critters and Pets
Most of our four-legged friends can’t wear cowboy boots, so … how do we protect them? Snakes don’t tend to be aggressive unless they’re injured or feel threatened. The best thing you can do with an outdoor pet is try to remove any potential hiding spots for snakes like a pile of leaves in a shady corner of the yard and keep an eye on Spot’s doghouse. Kleven says snakes don’t like wide-open spaces, so they tend to stay hidden. The fewer hiding spots they have near your pet, the better!
Critters in the Mailbox
A few months ago one of my neighbors found a small snake in her mailbox with her mail and a few days ago, we opened the mailbox to find a scorpion. Yikes! I asked Critterman if it seems odd to find a snake in the mailbox. To my dismay, he said snakes can climb almost anything with a texture. “Snakes can certainly climb straight up a brick encased mailbox and crawl right into an open mailbox. And, of course, scorpions are sneaky little critters that can wiggle into a cool space too.
Critters with Stingers
Ranking right up there on the fear factor with fire ants are our predatory arthropod pals, scorpions. The Hill Country is home to many types of scorpions from small dark-colored ones to larger whitish-clear ones. They do strike and produce a nasty sting, but unlike bees, they leave no stinger behind. Unless you are allergic to certain insect bites, Kleven says the scorpion sting is much like a wasp sting. You can treat it with antiseptic and take oral anti-histamine to reduce side effects.
Critters that Glow
An interesting factoid about scorpions is they glow. Scorpions have a chemical in their exoskeleton, so if you were to shine an ultraviolet light on one, it would glow a vibrant blue-green. Who wants to go outside tonight and test that theory?
What’s the creepiest critter you’ve seen this summer?