General Information

Tree Owner Responsibility

The following are excerpts from the publication issued by the AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M System, Department of Ecosystem Science And Management:

Owner’s Rights and Responsibilities

American Forests, Arbor Day Foundation

Many of us own trees as part of our real estate. This endows us with certain rights associated with those trees. Tree ownership also requires certain duties on our part to prevent our trees from becoming a nuisance or a liability. The objective of this publication is to reduce misunderstandings among neighbors regarding their trees.

Adjoining Landowners

Whether the tree is causing damage or not, if its branches extend beyond your property line, your neighbor has the right to trim your tree to the property line. Landownership rights extend indefinitely upward and down and those rights are protected from invasion by an adjoining landowner to the same extent as surface rights. In trimming the tree, your neighbor is not allowed to unduly harm your tree, however.

As a general rule, a landowner has no natural right to air, light or an unobstructed view. It has been held that such a right may be created by private parties through the granting of an easement or through the adoption of conditions, covenants and restrictions, or by the legislature by creating a right to sunlight for solar collectors or for satellite television. Local governments may impose restrictions that pertain to the property as to obstructions to air, light and view.

Tree Owner’s Responsibility

Generally, the landowner on whose property a tree grows will be held to a duty of care, determined by principles of negligence. Common prudence in tree maintenance is expected to prevent injury or damage to a neighbor’s property.

A landowner with constructive or actual knowledge of a patently defective condition of a tree is liable for damages, injury or death caused by that tree. Tree owners in urban areas have a duty to inspect each and every tree on the premises to determine hazard trees and have them removed. In rural areas, there is no duty to inspect natural trees, but if you know or should have known hazardous trees exist, liability has held for natural trees in these areas.

Landowners are not typically liable for “Acts of God.” An Act of God is an inevitable accident that could not have been prevented by human care, skill and foresight, but which results exclusively from nature’s cause, such as lightning, storms and floods. A landowner will not escape liability for damages caused by an unsound or defective tree located on his/her property. It is not an Act of God if it could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable diligence or ordinary care.

In short, a landowner will not be responsible for those injuries strictly arising out of an Act of God. If however, the injury could have been prevented by reasonable diligence or ordinary care or was an injury contributed to by human acts, the landowner will not be entitled to the Act of God defense and will be liable.

Snake Awareness

When snakes are known to be nearby, FREEZE until you know where they are! Allow the snake to retreat. If you must move, back slowly and carefully away from the snake.

Snakes in general, occur around a home for the specific purposes of seeking food and shelter. Keeping these things in mind provides us with guidelines to help prevent snakebites around the home.

  • Keep wood piles, brush piles, trash dumps and livestock pens as far as possible from the residence. When working in these areas, exercise caution. Never put an arm or leg into something if you can not see the bottom.
  • Keep storage areas and livestock sheds/barns as neat as possible. Treat materials stored on the floor as possible snake shelters. Treat overturned boats, tarps and similar objects as potential shelter for transient snakes moving through the area.
  • Remember snakes are adept at finding their way through small openings. Keep this in mind when entering crawl spaces, basements, garages and similar areas.

Safety in the Field

Since venomous snakes are common in the rural areas of Texas, it is important for ranchers, hunters, rural residents, outdoor enthusiasts and others that frequent these areas to exercise caution.

  • Be careful where you put your hands and feet; don’t reach or step until you can see the bottom.
  • Never step over a log without first seeing what is on the other side. If you must move a log, use a long stick or garden tool first, to ensure snakes are neither under, on or around these favored habitats.
  • Use a flashlight when moving about, even in your home yard at night.
  • Animal burrows make excellent habitats for snakes. Don’t reach in without first checking.
  • Wear protective clothing if working in areas where you suspect snakes nearby. Heavy footwear, snake proof trousers and/or leggings will help reduce your risk.

What to Do for Snakebite


  1. Assume envenomation has occurred, especially if the following initial symptoms are present:
    1. Pit Viper (Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Rattlesnake)
      • Bites include fang puncture marks
      • Almost always include immediate burning pain at the bite site
      • Immediate and usually progressive local swelling within 5 minutes, and local discoloration of the skin
    2. Coral Snake
      • Tremors slurred speech blurred or double vision
      • Drowsiness or euphoria
      • Marked increase in salivation within four hours; however, life-threatening effects from coral snake envenomation may not be evident for 24 hours or longer.
  2. Identify the species of venomous snake that inflicted the bite. Identification is not necessary, but helpful.
  3. Keep the victim, yourself, & anyone else as calm as possible.
  4. Know and be alert for the symptoms of shock, and institute the proper treatment should it ensue.
  5. Wash the bite area with a disinfectant if available.
  6. Remove jewelry such as rings and watches, as well as tight-fitting clothes, before the onset of swelling.
  7. Reduce or prevent movement of a bitten extremity.
  8. Position the extremity below the level of the heart.
  9. Get the victim to a medical facility as soon as possible. Anti-venom treatment is generally most effective within the first 4 hours and is ineffective after 8-10 hours.


  1. Do not make incisions over the bite marks.
  2. Do not use a tourniquet or other constricting ban except in extreme cases of envenomation, and then only if properly trained in the technique.
  3. Do not use cryotherapy (including cold compresses, ice, dry ice, chemical ice packs, spray refrigerants, and freezing).
  4. Do not use electroshock therapy.
  5. Do not drink alcohol, as it dilates blood vessels and increases absorption from the circulatory system, and thus helps spread venom faster.
  6. Do not use aspirin or related medications to relieve pain, because they increase bleeding. A pain reliever not containing aspirin, however, may be used.
  7. Do not use the pressure/immobilization technique, which consists of firmly wrapping the entire limb with an elastic bandage and then splinting.
  8. Do not administer anti-venom in the field unless properly trained in the procedure.