Yes, there are snakes in our forests!
How To Avoid Snakebites
Before venturing out into the wilderness, familiarize yourself with the snakes of your area, both venomous and non-venomous species.
- Learn which habitats the venomous species in your region are likely to be encountered in, and use caution when in those habitats.
- Always take a buddy into the field with you.
- Wear boots and loose-fitting pants if you are venturing into venomous snake territory.
- Try as much as possible not to take a snake by surprise. Stay on trails, and watch where you place your hands and feet, especially when climbing or stepping over fences, large rocks, and logs, or when collecting firewood.
How To Treat Snakebites
Venomous snakebites are rare, and they are rarely fatal to humans. Of the 8,000 snakebite victims in the United States each year, only about 10 to 15 die. However, for any snakebite the best course of action is to get medical care as soon as possible.
- Try to keep the snakebite victim still, as movement helps the venom spread through the body.
- Keep the injured body part motionless and just below heart level.
- Keep the victim warm, calm, and at rest, and transport him or her immediately to medical care. Do not allow him to eat or drink anything.
- If medical care is more than half an hour away, wrap a bandage a few inches above the bite, keeping it loose enough to enable blood flow (you should be able to fit a finger beneath it). Do not cut off blood flow with a tight tourniquet. Leave the bandage in place until reaching medical care.
- If you have a snakebite kit, wash the bite, and place the kit's suction device over the bite. (Do not suck the poison out with your mouth.) Do not remove the suction device until you reach a medical facility.
- Try to identify the snake so the proper antivenin can be administered, but do not waste time or endanger yourself trying to capture or kill it.
- If you are alone and on foot, start walking slowly toward help, exerting the injured area as little as possible. If you run or if the bite has delivered a large amount of venom, you may collapse, but a snakebite seldom results in death.
For more information on snakebites and their treatment see the following, on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website:
Here's some information about copperheads and rattlesnakes
Copperhead - Agkistrodon contortrix
Description: 22-53" (55.9-134.6 cm). Stout-bodied; copper, orange, or pink-tinged, with bold chestnut or reddish-brown crossbands constricted on midline of back. Top of head unmarked. Facial pit between eye and nostril. Scales weakly keeled, in 23-25 rows. Anal plate single.
Warning: Copperhead bites are painful, but rarely pose a serious threat to human life. Copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes belong to the pit viper family (Viperidae). These dangerous snakes have a heat-sensitive sensory organ on each side of the head that enables them to locate warm-blooded prey and strike accurately, even in the dark. The curved, hollow fangs are normally folded back along the jaw. When a pit viper strikes, the fangs rapidly swing forward and fill with venom as the mouth opens. The venom is a complex mixture of proteins that acts primarily on a victim's blood tissue. Pit vipers are never safe to handle. Even dead ones can retain some neurological reflexes, and "road kills" have been known to bite.
Breeding: Live-bearing. Mates spring to fall, peak April to May. 1-14 young, 7-10" (18-25 cm) long, are born August to early October; mature in 2-3 years.
Habitat: Wooded hillsides with rock outcrops above streams or ponds.
Range: Southwest Massachusetts west to extreme southeast. Nebraska south to Florida panhandle and south-central and west Texas.
Discussion: It basks during the day in spring and fall, becoming nocturnal as the days grow warmer. Favored summer retreats are stonewalls, piles of debris near abandoned farms, sawdust heaps, and rotting logs, and large flat stones near streams. It feeds on small rodents, lizards, frogs, large caterpillars, and cicadas. The young twitch their yellow-tipped tail to lure prey. In fall, Copperheads return to their den site, often a rock outcrop on a hillside with a southern or eastern exposure.
Timber Rattlesnake - Crotalus horridus
Scientific name: The generic name Crotalus is from the Latin word crotalum meaning "rattle". The species name horridus is Latin for "dreadful," pertaining to the venomous nature of this snake. People in the South sometimes call this snake the "velvet-tail" or "canebrake" rattler.
Size: A large, stout-bodied snake adult Timber Rattlesnakes average from 900 - 1,520 mm (36 - 60 in) in length.
Color: The Timber Rattlesnake of the Southeast has a ground color of brown, black, yellow, or pinkish. The back has a series of 20 - 29 brown or black blotches and crossbands, and a reddish brown middorsal stripe. The rear portion of the body and the tail are velvety black.
Life Cycle: In the South, Timber Rattlesnakes breed in late summer and fall, primarily August through October. From 5 - 20 young are born the following year from August through October. The young rattlesnakes will remain near the mother for 7 - 10 days after birth and some may follow the female to dens to hibernate during the winter months.
Habitat: A resident of Eastern forests, the Timber Rattlesnake inhabits hardwood forests with rocky outcrops and talus slopes, pine flatwoods, bottomland hardwood forests, and cane thickets. The primary food of adults is rodents, rabbits, and squirrels, but birds, and occasionally other snakes, lizards, and frogs may be eaten. Natural predators include hawks, the bobcat, coyotes, skunks, and snake-eating snakes like the Cottonmouth and kingsnakes.
Range: The Timber Rattlesnake occurs throughout the state of Kentucky. In the rest of the United States it ranges from southeastern Nebraska and east Texas to New Hampshire. It is absent from the peninsula of Florida, Eastern Virginia, and the Delmarva peninsula region.