Webmaster's environmental note:
The purpose of these OUPD web pages is to help familiarize you with some of Oklahoma's insect and reptile "perilous partners" in order to allow you to recognize them when you encounter them, be aware of possible hazards, and give some information on avoiding them (and basic first-aid if you don't avoid them.)
It's not my intent to encourage you to kill these insects/snakes or wipe out every nest you encounter. All of these play a role in our local ecology and some are VERY beneficial despite their hazardous properties. None of these insects or snakes sees humans as prey, and their venom is either designed for defense, or for attacking other prey which we may actually WANT them to control around our homes.
I hope these pages will help you feel more comfortable when encountering these insects and snakes; forearmed with some good knowledge of their nature, habits, hazards, and what to do if your encounter is a painful one.
Also, wholesale slaughter of our perilous partners (not including direct environmental implications) may have undesired consequences. Take, for example, rattlesnakes:
Rattlesnakes have become almost an endangered species in some locations. Not all rattlesnakes are aggressive, and use the rattle to warn away predators (and humans). Some do not rattle before they attack and are aggressive. Those that do rattle may be less aggressive unless threatened.
By attacking and killing any rattlesnake that "warns" you by rattling - i.e. calls itself to your attention, you are removing it from the breeding gene pool, encouraging the only silent, not-rattling aggressive snakes.
If they rattle, let them live and just give them a WIDE berth. If you encounter a rattlesnake (or any other venomous snake) in an urban area, contact the local police (dial 911) or animal control agency for assistance in removing them. Do not attempt to "catch them" yourself!
(I guess the opposite of that concept is that if it doesn't rattle, and is aggressive, and attacks you, that you should kill it. The only problem with that is that you're violating another important concept: Staying safely away! Remember, many, if not most, snake bites come to people trying to catch or kill snakes, not from people who are trying to avoid snakes!!)
As an active camper and hiker and life-long Oklahoma resident, I've encountered all of these critters and with few exceptions (such as running a weed-eater near a yellowjacket nest) I've never had a problem.
I've almost stepped on copperheads and rattlesnakes and they've never attacked - in fact I've never had an attack by a venomous snake, even though I've encountered them frequently in the wild. I give them some space...
Anyway, it's given me pleasure to be able to present these pages to you, and I hope they help you.
Let me know if you have any suggestions for additions or corrections.
-Richard Hamilton, OUPD Webmaster