This time of year, many people get out and visit Neosho’s parks. Some people come out to walk their pet or ride a bicycle on the 1.7-mile paved trail in Morse Park.
Many come to try their luck fishing for the wily rainbow trout in the clear water of Hickory Creek.
Sports are popular in the ballfields across the creek or possibly enjoying an evening picnic on a blanket spread out in the grass.
Whatever your reason to visit one of the parks, there is always a chance you will encounter a snake.
People have differing opinions of snakes. I have heard it said that “the only good snake is a dead snake,” to which I disagree.
If you will take the time to study snakes and learn their differences and different habits, you will find that many species are completely harmless, posing no danger whatsoever to humans.
Many are more afraid of you than you are of them, if that is possible!
Snakes are quiet and camouflaged to blend into their environment, so when a person comes across a snake many times they are startled.
I have been known to do a quick “snake dance” occasionally when I unexpectedly come across one. My sister loves to share one such story from the days of our youth involving a cottonmouth down along Indian Creek.
Most of the snakes encountered in our parks are harmless. These include black rat snakes, king snakes, garter snakes, ring neck snakes, and worm snakes.
Black rat snakes are said to be “the farmer’s friend” and are probably the largest snake found in our parks. They are a constrictor, meaning they wrap up their prey and squeeze them until they are lifeless.
Mice, rats, and other rodents are their favorites. They are non-venomous but will strike and bite if cornered. They are harmless and are best left alone.
The speckled king snake is a common snake in the Ozarks. They are considered a favorite snake because they will kill and eat other snakes, including venomous snakes.
Generally, if you have these snakes around you will not have other species of snakes hanging around.
There are several types of king snakes that consider the Neosho area home; all share the same traits and are usually considered “good” to have around. These can also be seen in our parks.
Garter snakes, like all snakes, are carnivorous. Their diet consists of almost any creature they are capable of overpowering: slugs, earthworms, leeches, lizards, amphibians, minnows, and rodents.