Venomous snakes

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Venomous snakes

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:28 am

Venomous snakes.

I have kept snakes for most of my life but never anything hot and do have some bush experience in dealing with venomous snakes. That being said I am no herpetologist or medical doctor so keep this in mind. Thousands of people are bitten in the USA each year however the actual number of deaths are few and far between but I do think some general awareness of venomous snakes is warranted.

This weekend I was hiking into Mass from Sages ravine to Mt. Everett with some exploratory hikes along some blue trails off the AT. Nearing the north face of Mount Race I found this Timber Rattler right in the middle of the trail.

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I haven’t seen one in my AO for at least 2 decades. Given the amount of time I spend in the woods to me this is a good indication as to the decline within their population around these parts. The Timber is a fairly calm snake that depends greatly on camouflage for protection. They can hit hard though bites are extremely rare in this area. The snake was large and thick but couldn’t get a photo of the entire body as its camo was so darn effective within the low brush. A dark tail with breakup pattern mid section and dark head worked very well.

My basic rules for snake country.

1. Limit your interaction with the animal. We have all seen Edward Grylls aka Bear kill venomous snakes for so-called wilderness survival purposes but from my perspective this is stupid. Most people that get tagged do so when attempting to kill or capture the reptile. Think about it like this. Are the calories worth risking your life over given the potential for delayed or no medical treatment? Is it worth handling a dangerous animal simply out of curiosity? If yea think treatment is just a simple shot at the hospital you have another thing coming. If you believe your too fast or bad ass to get hit think again. There are just too many variables outside of one’s control.

2. Pay attention to your hands and feet in snake country. I have encountered rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths though the later was in Florida. They all wanted nothing to do with me and frankly beyond my respect the feeling was mutual. But these animals will defend themselves if they perceive a threat. Snakes like copperheads and rattlers blend in very well with the environment. It’s so easy to blindly thrust one’s hand into the rocks or brush looking for a dropped gear item or foraging. It’s easy to step without looking. Keeping in tune with the environment helps reduce most dangers. This is the same mentality that directs someone to look for widow makers and possible flood dangers before setting up camp.

3. Adjust your clothing accordingly. I was wearing shorts, a synthetic shirt and hiking shoes as the risk of snake bite was minimal but if your AO is more prone to snakes maybe consider a good pair of leather boots with snake proof chaps or gaiters.

4. Learn about your local critters and bugs. This is all part of understanding your environment. If yea don’t know something is potentially dangerous your risks are greatly increased.

Venomous snake misconceptions.

1. Killing snakes to reduce the risks of getting hit, aka self defense. This clearly falls into the limit your interaction category that was covered earlier. Also as stated most snakes aren’t looking to bite anyone. It can be bad juju as well. Within my AO lyme disease is a very high risk. Lyme can be transferred from mice and other rodents though ticks. These rodents are food for some snakes. Even in a ridicules “I shouldn’t be alive” survival situation I would be hard pressed to kill something for any reason that is helping me within the environment. It sounds silly but that’s just how I view the nature.

2. I can cut a slit and suck the poison out or use a snake bite kit. I am no MD but question the validity of this. Somehow I get the feeling a person would do more harm than good. Get medical attention ASAP. If that’s not available to be honest I haven’t a clue. I am of the ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure persuasion.

3. A rattlesnake will always rattle so you will be warned before an accidental encounter. Sorry to say this isn’t always the case. On a side note all the copperheads I seen remained totally still. You just can’t depend on a warning from any snake but they aren’t called rattlers for nothing.

4. All bites result in a serious hit. Sometimes a snake will elect not to inject any venom. This is called a dry bite. I am not certain as to the reasons for this. Perhaps they wish to conserve venom or maybe it was just a bluff but if tagged get medical help as the longer you wait the worse the damage.

5. A bite from a baby venomous snake is more dangerous than an adult. I have read reports that a baby snake has more potent venom and don’t do dry bites. On the flip side it seems to me that adults have a great volume of venom. I believe it really doesn’t matter as both are potentially dangerous and should be equally respected.

The chances of getting a fatal bite are low compared to other risks such as exposure and dehydration but learning to mitigate risks are one of the most important survival skills going.
Last edited by Woods Walker on Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:09 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by ChaoticL0gic » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:03 am

I read somewhere that most snake bite victims fall into a certain demographic. Intoxicated Males between the ages for 16 to 25. Bites normally occur just after the words "Hey, Hold my beer", " I know all about snakes" or "I saw this on Man Vs Wild".
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by shrapnel » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:08 am

I had a baby cottonmouth strike at my canoe paddle once. To be fair to the snake, though, I was using the paddle to knock it off of a branch into the water. And to be fair to me for bothering it, I was in a canoe that was headed straight for the snake, and it was at face-level.

I hope it didn't hurt its teeth when it bit the paddle, though.

And that is a gorgeous rattler!
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by sql_yoda » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:22 am

Beautiful photos!

A very good click and shoot man, most of us would have no idea what we're looking at. I envy you, and the conservationist in me is very pleased that you took your pics and moved on.

good show

ETA: absolutely gorgeous photos and a very well done post vis a vis what to do if you see one. TA

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Blkhrt13 » Wed Jun 30, 2010 2:48 am

I too am proud of you for leaving nature be. I try to do the same. The only time i choose not too is if they decide to hang out under or around the hunting camp. My kids play in the yard cant have them finding a snake that will kill them.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by JoeTosco » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:43 am

Good post. I agree with your position of no interaction if possible.

I have a first aid book published here in Brazil by a doctor who is alo a climber and trekker with years of experience. The book is specialized in mountain accidents. He says that since one of the effects of snake bites can be lowering your body's capacity of controlling hemorrhage it's not clever to cut yourself and take blood.

The snake in the head pic looked like a mean creature. :D
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Necrodamus » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:10 am

Great photos and great read!
I like to leave nature alone as well.
Woods Walker wrote:5. A bite from a baby venomous snake is more dangerous than an adult. I have read reports that a baby snake has more potent venom and don’t do dry bites. On the flip side it seems to me that adults have a great volume of venom. I believe it really doesn’t matter as both are potentially dangerous and should be equally respected.
I was told by a snake-loving friend that this is true, but not for an obvious reason.
The adult does have much more venom and actually the venom is equal in potency.
The variation is due to control of the venom sacks.
Young snakes do not have the experience yet to control their venom and dump everything when they strike. Mature snakes retain their venom giving them more venomous hits.
This is both better and worse. Since babies only get a couple of hits they will usually be in the same appendage, not so with adults. If you were down low when it strikes and do not retreat you could very well have bites all over your body. (I have been searching for reputable source to confirm this but I have not found one yet)
ChaoticL0gic wrote:I read somewhere that most snake bite victims fall into a certain demographic. Intoxicated Males between the ages for 16 to 25. Bites normally occur just after the words "Hey, Hold my beer", " I know all about snakes" or "I saw this on Man Vs Wild".
I have heard this too! :lol:

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Gingerbread Man » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:50 am

All bites are serious whether there is venom or not. It's still two deep tissue punctures and the snake will transfer bacteria. I'd suggest if your ever bitten to see medical help immediately. Snakes eat rat/mice and they may have contact with plague or some other nasty crap.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by bystander » Wed Jun 30, 2010 10:38 pm

I only kill snakes that are chasing me and which I cannot outrun. So far, there hasn't been one that has tried to chase me, so I live and let live.

Only unpleasant experience was during a prairie chicken hunt, when I spied a bull snake sunning itself on the road which I mistook for deceased. It took offense when I got down on my knees to pry open his mouth to see what kind of teeth a four and a half foot bull snake would have...

...never did see the teeth, or at least I don't remember them. Even the guys in the van jumped when it reared up.

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by phil_in_cs » Wed Jun 30, 2010 10:48 pm

from our local news today:
http://www.wtaw.com/index.php?option=co ... &Itemid=13" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
College Station's Economic Development Director is at home recovering from a near-death experience.

An avid outdoorsman, David Gwin visits Sam Houston National Forest two to three times a month. Last Friday as Gwin was setting up camp in the dark in an undeveloped area, a western cottonmouth snake bit him twice in his right foot.

For the next hour and 15 minutes, Gwin says he was on the ground enduring seizures and convulsions among other reactions to the snake venom.

Gwin had a cell phone but there was no signal. He pulled himself up and got to his pickup that was 50 yards away.

With a standard transmission and a swelling right foot and leg, Gwin started driving back to College Station. In the Grimes County community of Richards at one in the morning he rolled through a stop sign, which got the attention of a sheriff's deputy.

Gwin says he wanted to be treated in College Station, so he was placed back in his truck and he drove himself to the emergency room.

Gwin, who admits he doesn't like being around sick people in the hospital, convinced doctors to release him, which was done Tuesday.

Doctors credited Gwin's build and physical condition for being able to survive the venoms, though there remains a concern about muscular damage in his right leg.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:48 pm

Mickeydown.

Over the years I have been bitten by non venomous snakes the worst of which was of all things a Burmese python and never contracted anything. But being a non MD medical advice isn’t my stick.

Necrodamus.

It’s entirely possible that a baby snake is more dangerous than an adult but tossed it into the misconceptions category as there seems to be some debate on this issue. I never ran into a little one in the field but would sure give it the same respect as the adults.

Shrapnel.

I saw a cottonmouth when swimming in Florida. I was out of my AO and element (in the water) and didn’t feel all that comfortable with the situation though knew like most snakes it wasn’t looking to bite me. Personally I wouldn’t want a cottonmouth in my boat either.

JoeTosco.

I think Brazil has got my AO beat hands down for snakes.

Know your snakes.

People often misidentify the non venomous common water snake like this larger one I seen near a pond with both the cottonmouth and copperhead. Their colors range from a banded pattern to a more solid dark nasty look which could account for the multiple species misidentification.

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These will bite if handled and have sharp recurved teeth which can draw blood. They will also spray a handler with crap and musk. I believe there are a few species which cover much of the eastern half of the USA, maybe beyond for all I know but if uncertain it's best to keep your distance.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by CitizenZ » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:06 am

Most people are bitten by snakes when they step on them. The old saying is to "walk heavy" so they can hear you comming and they will get out of your way. If you walk "lightly" they may not hear you and you could step on them. Jumping into underbrush or kicking up the brush is a great way to get bit.
Snakes are frequently found on trail clearings and rocky outcropings in the morning to "sun" themselves and warm up. They are cold blooded and don't move well until it gets warm enough for them. When it's warm snakes move very quickly and can leap/lunge 6-12 feet from strike position.
Snakes, and scorpions, will seek out warm spots, like your shoes or snuggle up next to your sleeping bag at night. Even through a tent wall. In snake/scorpion country always tip your shoes over in the moring and try to knock out any critters or debris that may be hiding in there. Don't sleep up against a tent wall or roll onto the tent wall. Your sleeping buddy outside the tent may bite/sting when you crush him.

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by tilt » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:49 am

Western diamondback rattlesnake is delicious. I don't much care for copperhead, even though they seem to have more meat on them. Never eaten water moc. If you can't ID the snake, stay well away. If you can ID it, make sure you have the tools for the job before trying to catch it. I keep snake tongs and a snake hook in my truck's gun rack for food gathering and pest removal. It's saved me several bites.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by aa1pr » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:49 am

Nice post !

When I was 18 or there abouts I was fishing on the otter creek close to vergennes. I noticed a snake's tail body portion coming out from beneath a large rock. I got down to ground level with it, as it was not moving, even though it had a baby bullhead in its mouth. I got back up on the rock & dropped a larger rock on it and out it came all pissed. My friend came over to me just then and yelled at me that I was F^%$*&^ idiot for getting down there to look it in the eye. I had no idea it was a timber rattlesnake. what surprised me more was it went into the water and never appeared again.

At least you did not make my foolish mistake..so heed cautions !

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Pansy » Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:15 pm

For you Southerners... Don't get bitten by a Coral Snake after October... http://www.popularmechanics.com/science ... ck=main_sr
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by WhoShotJR » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:52 pm

CitizenZ wrote:Most people are bitten by snakes when they step on them.
.
That's what happened to a cousin of mine who lives in the next town from me about 8-10 years ago. Walked right outside her house at night, wearing shorts and sandals, stepped on a copperhead. She spent almost a week in the hospital, her leg was so swollen and discolored it looked like it would just fall off. She said the pain meds they gave her didn't make a dent in reducing the agony she was in. I've stepped very carefully ever since then, especially at night.

While I know very little about medicine, I can't see what the harm would be in using one of those suction kits to try and remove some of the venom. If you can get even a portion of the venom out, seems it would help. Just so long as one was using it while also getting to medical attention as fast as possible.

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Big B » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:29 pm

Great post Woods Walker! :D I have alway carried a snake bite kit (little plunger gizmo) in my pack when in CA, AZ, NM, etc. Until I recently read they were pretty much useless.....




P.S. Thinking about venomous snakes too much makes me glad I live in Western Washington :wink:
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Woods Walker » Sat Jul 10, 2010 12:04 am

aap1

The bullhead in the mouth and location near a creek almost makes me think it could have been a water snake as seen exactly the same thing myself. It seems bullheads don’t go down easy. But then again anything is possible.

WhoShotJR.

Sorry to hear about your cousin. It sounds like a nasty encounter. I only seen a few Copperheads but they were camouflaged rather well and didn’t exactly make themselves known.

As for the snake bite kits I am no MD but it just seems kinda questionable to me.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Heks » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:10 am

WhoShotJR wrote:
CitizenZ wrote:Most people are bitten by snakes when they step on them.
.
That's what happened to a cousin of mine who lives in the next town from me about 8-10 years ago. Walked right outside her house at night, wearing shorts and sandals, stepped on a copperhead. She spent almost a week in the hospital, her leg was so swollen and discolored it looked like it would just fall off. She said the pain meds they gave her didn't make a dent in reducing the agony she was in. I've stepped very carefully ever since then, especially at night.

While I know very little about medicine, I can't see what the harm would be in using one of those suction kits to try and remove some of the venom. If you can get even a portion of the venom out, seems it would help. Just so long as one was using it while also getting to medical attention as fast as possible.
snake bite suction kits rarely remove enough venom to be effective, they mostly get blood or other fluids. (american red cross does approve them if medical attention is more than 30 minutes away)
Do not try and open the bite wound and remove venom orally, both actions open more possibilities for infection, since the human mouth has more bacteria than people on the earth.
best bet it to keep the wound below heart level, isolate movement of said area, keep the victim calm, and GTFO to a hospital.
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by lailr » Sat Jul 10, 2010 8:03 am

I've heard that mothballs will repel them from a campsite

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by roOism » Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:59 am

Great post WW!

I've had a few run ins with Rattlers over the years, both here and up in Idaho. In my encounters I never felt the need to do anything but give it space with the exception of one unlucky time when a rattler decided to set up shop right outside the girls showers at a YMCA camp I worked for. It was seriously pissed off by the kids running and screaming and trying to get close for a look, so the boss man decided the safest route (for him!) was to have me kill it. Didn't even let me eat it, the bum.
Necrodamus wrote: I was told by a snake-loving friend that this is true, but not for an obvious reason.
The adult does have much more venom and actually the venom is equal in potency.
The variation is due to control of the venom sacks.
Young snakes do not have the experience yet to control their venom and dump everything when they strike. Mature snakes retain their venom giving them more venomous hits.
I've heard this as well, though always second hand. My mother actually cared for a guy back in the day that was bitten by a baby rattler. He was local wacko everyone called "The Snake Man" he looked like Charles Manson and took his pet python on walks, had signs in his house that said beware of attack snake. Anyway he decided he wanted a pet rattler, and thought it would be safer to try to catch a baby, which promptly bit and messed him up pretty good.

I had one run in with a baby rattler, one thing to keep in mind is that baby rattlers may not have developed their rattle yet, and won't make any noise. They still have the distinct triangular shaped head, and should be recognizable.


Here's a link to some pictures of a guy getting reconstructive surgery from a rattlesnake bite. Warning, Graphic!
http://www.rattlesnakebite.org/rattlesnakepics.htm


In first aid classes I've taken I've always been told not to try to bleed or suck out the poison, but to keep the wound below the level of the heart, try to keep the person calm and get their heart rate down, and to apply a constricting band (not a tourniquet, should be able to fit two fingers under the band easily) above the wound. I've also heard from time to time that you should try to capture the snake for the purpose of positively ID'ing the snake for making antivenin or something. I don't really see the logic in risking further bites from something that just pumped you full of necro-juice(see above link), but if it can be done safely, I suppose so maybe?
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by KnightoftheRoc » Sun Jul 11, 2010 5:39 am

I've been in the woods of NY state my entire life, and I've only seen garter snakes and black snakes if I see snakes at all. In my area, we have rattlers and copperheads, as well as milk snakes and a few others. It just seems strange to me, considering all the snake stories I've heard locally, that I've never seen either of the famous venomous snakes of my own area. Now, for those who HAVE encountered a copperhead in person, let me ask- I've been told my whole life that copperheads carry with them a smell like that of cucumbers- have you noticed this smell? Or does this fall into the category of urban myth?
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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by WhoShotJR » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:23 am

roOism wrote:I've also heard from time to time that you should try to capture the snake for the purpose of positively ID'ing the snake for making antivenin or something. I don't really see the logic in risking further bites from something that just pumped you full of necro-juice(see above link), but if it can be done safely, I suppose so maybe?

I think there are basically three kinds of snake bites: non-venomous, coral snake, and other venomous. From wiki:
In the U.S. the only approved antivenom for pit viper (rattlesnake, copperhead and water moccasin) snakebite is based on a purified product made in sheep known as CroFab. It was approved by the FDA in October, 2000. U.S. coral snake antivenom is no longer manufactured, and remaining stocks of in-date antivenom for coral snakebite will expire in the Fall of 2009 leaving the U.S. without a Coral snake antivenom at this time (January, 2009). Efforts are being made to obtain approval for a coral snake antivenom produced in Mexico which would work against U.S. coral snakebite, but such approval remains speculative. In the absence of antivenom, all coral snakebite should be treated in a hospital by elective endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation until the effects of coral snake neurotoxins abate. It is important to remember that respiratory paralysis in coral snakebite can occur suddenly, often up to 12 or more hours after the bite, so intubation and ventilation should be employed in anticipation of respiratory failure and not after it occurs, when it may be too late.
Seems one would know whether or not they have been struck with venom soon enough due to the pain, and the above quote makes me think the only time one should risk trying to capture the snake is if you think you've been struck by a coral snake.

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Re: Venomous snakes

Post by Evan the Diplomat » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:58 am

KnightoftheRoc wrote:INow, for those who HAVE encountered a copperhead in person, let me ask- I've been told my whole life that copperheads carry with them a smell like that of cucumbers- have you noticed this smell?
I was a snake wrangler for a senior level college herpetology class. On one trip we captured 8 copperhead and delivered them to a researcher who specialized in copperheads.

I didn't smell anything while we were catching them nor was there any smell in the car while we were delivering them.

As WW mentioned common watersnakes genus Natrix, will often take a dump on you if handled. It is a mix of feces and musk and it smell real bad. After rinsing my hand in the pond it still smelled so bad I wanted to cut my hand off.
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