By Halle Thornton
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Most people dislike snakes on a base, especially those invading one’s home or routine.
However, Senior Airman Brandon Pingle, structures troop with the 50th Civil Engineering Squadron, finds their presence on base interesting.
Pingle said the most common types of snakes at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, are bull, garter, hognosed and prairie rattlesnakes.
“Only the rattlesnake poses a threat to a human,” he said. “Even if bitten, with proper medication, the dangerous can be minimal.”
Come early spring, snakes emerge from hibernation and are prominent through the summer, going back into hibernation in the fall.
Pingle explained any snake one encounters doesn’t want to encounter you.
“For snakes, humans are a threat and want nothing to do with you,” he said. “The best thing you can do is leave them alone.”
Pingle said there are stigmas about snakes being aggressive and chasing people, but the most a snake will do on base is strike a defensive posture.
While most people would be afraid of removing, or even coming near a snake, Pingle will happily respond to any call regarding a snake sighting.
“I have already gotten quite a few calls to remove them, and I’m usually happy to do so,” he added.
Before responding to a call, Pingle prepares himself and gathers the proper equipment to safely remove the snake, venomous or not.
“I always come to the site prepared to store any potentially venomous snakes,” he said. “I usually have a snake capture bag, but any box with a lid will do.”
Additionally, Pingle brings tools, such as hooks or tongs, to safely handle the snake, then identifies whether the snake is venomous, and from there, tries to educate the caller.
“A lot of people don’t know the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes,” he said. “I give a description of the snake, let the person know whether it’s dangerous or not, and just talk to them about it. Education is the biggest thing.”
Thomas Hanon, Air Force housing property manager with the 50th CES, encourages Tierra Vista Communities residents to call the maintenance line or front office if there is a snake sighting.
“Snakes are unique in the sense of the predator/prey relationship with humans,” he said. “They have to be handled different than other animals.”
Pingle added snakes aren’t stationary, and will try to get away while they can, making the capturing process more difficult, but by no means does he harm any snake he’s called to catch.
“Any snake I capture, I relocate,” he said. “I bring them off base and release them in a safe area.”
If bitten, Pingle’s biggest piece of advice is to remain calm and call 567-3911 on a cell phone or 911 on a landline.
“Snake venom travels through your bloodstream,” he said. “Panicking increases heartrate, which increases the rate at which the venom spreads.”
Depending on the location of the bite, Pingle suggests removing any jewelry surrounding the bite, as it may cut off circulation, and begin to swell.
A common misconception is to suck the venom out of the bite, but Pingle highly recommends avoiding this.
“It causes more infection and you wind up with venom in your mouth,” he said. “If you have any lesions, this can cause multiple envenomations from one bite.”
Also, Pingle suggests keeping the bite area below your heart level, and says not to apply a tourniquet, because it will cause the venom to work faster in a localized region, causing more local damage.
“Know what you’re dealing with,” he added.
Pingle explained while there are going to be exceptions to any rule, a good tip when identifying snakes is to listen for a rattle.
“Any snake in Colorado that can hurt you will warn you with a distinct rattle,” he said. “The only snakes in Colorado that are a threat to humans are rattlesnakes. You know when you hear them.”
Pingle emphasized the importance of respect for snakes.
“They’re not going to hurt you if you leave them alone.”
To report snake sightings in the TVC call, 683-3660 or 597-7204. To report snake sightings around base, call 50th CES at 567-2910.