Wild huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.) are closely related to blueberries and grow wild in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Although they are sometimes available for purchase through local nurseries, many people remember picking the wild berries as children and prefer to continue that tradition and pick their own fruit. Florida’s huckleberry bushes are found in lightly shaded woody areas and along the edge of woodlands, in clearings, and along roadways where they can enjoy full sun. Unfortunately, these grassy clearings and lightly wooded areas are also home to some of Florida’s snakes. There are 50 species of snake found in Florida and six are poisonous. It is important to know how to avoid them when picking huckleberries.
Things You'll Need
- Bells or other noisemakers
- Long walking stick
- Long-sleeved shirt
Make lots of noise. Talk to your companions, sing to yourself, wear bells, or whistle. Noises will alert snakes to your presence and encourage them to move on rather than risk a meeting neither you nor the snake wants.
Listen to the noises around you. You can often hear the movement when snakes slide through dead grass or dried leaves.
Carry a long walking stick with you and use it to comb through tall grass, dead leaves and huckleberry bushes. If you do inadvertently disturb a snake, it is much better to have a few feet of walking stick between you and the offended reptile.
Never put your hands and feet anywhere you cannot see. Step onto obstacles such as fallen logs or large rocks rather than over them, putting your foot down only after checking the far side of the object for snakes.
Give any snakes you do encounter a wide berth. Do not attempt to catch or move them. If one is coiled in the huckleberry bush you were heading for, choose a different bush rather than disturb the snake. If you do startle a snake, hold perfectly still until it moves on, or slowly back away. Avoid dead snakes as well as live ones – recently deceased snakes often experience muscle spasms and may still be able to bite.
Tips & Warnings
- Wear protective clothing, such as sturdy boots, long pants, long sleeves and gloves when picking. These items are certainly not snake-proof, but they may offer an extra layer of protection if you do have an accidental encounter.
- The Art of Manliness: Guide to Snakes Part 2: How to Avoid & Treat a Snakebite
- Cape Snake Conservation: How to Avoid Snake Bite!
- Trekfa Adventure: The Five Main Rules for Avoiding Snake Bite
- Today's Homeowner: How to Pick Wild Blackberries and Raspberries
- University of Florida: Guide to Florida's Venomous Snakes
- Wild Floridian: Edible Plants of Florida
- E.C. Browns Nursery: Gaylussacia Baccata
- Michigan State University Extension: Unusual Fruit Plants for Gardens in the North Central Region
- University of Idaho: Growing Western Huckleberries
- Photo Credit NA/AbleStock.com/Getty Images