Springtime in many states ushers in rain, warmer temperatures, and blooming flowers. You can add something else to that list: snakes. That doesn’t mean you should avoid the great outdoors, but it does serve as a reminder to be extra vigilant about where you step and sit. People have a lot of fear about snakes and think they’re dangerous. If you are harassing a rattlesnake or trying to grab one and they bite you, yes, they can be dangerous. But if you leave them alone, they are not purposely going to attack you. After all, a snake uses its venom for food, not for defense. Most snakes are not outwardly aggressive unless provoked or startled. Some snakes, such at the cottonmouth, are known to be more aggressive than others, but again, that’s only when harassed. Most bites occur when you accidentally step on or near a snake and startle it. That’s easy to do when hiking in tall grass (beware of ticks, too!), dismounting your bike into brush, when landscaping your yard, working around wood piles, cleaning out sheds or barns, or when you are otherwise distracted with a chore and not thinking about where you’re putting your hands and feet.
How to identify a rattlesnake:
• The best giveaway is if the snake has a diamond or triangular-shaped head that is wider than its neck.
• Rattlesnakes have chunky bodies rather than longer and slimmer body shapes.
• Rattlesnakes have a white-stripe pattern on their faces.
• Rattlesnakes have vertical eye slits.
How to avoid becoming a victim of snakebite:
• Wear appropriate gear to help block rattlesnake venom if bitten— snake gaiters or snake boots and long pants. Also wear leather gloves if working in snake country.
• Stay on trails when hiking and away from underbrush and tall weeds.
• Never touch a snake, even if it appears dead. Even freshly killed snakes may still be able to bite.
• Look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or firewood.
• Never hike or bike alone in remote areas. Have someone with you who can assist in the event of an emergency.
• Teach children to respect snakes and leave them alone.
Did you know that not all snakebites are equal? Some snakes deliver a bite with a small amount of venom and others can deliver a great deal. So-called dry bites contain no venom at all. If you are bitten, even if it doesn’t feel worse than a bee sting at the time, you won’t know how much or how little venom was injected, therefore, it’s imperative you get immediate medical attention. Don’t apply ice, don’t use a tourniquet or constricting band, and don’t attempt to suck out the poison. Constricting blood vessels near a bite can lead to amputation. According to a 2014 report from Texas A&M, a person who suffers a bite from a venomous snake could wind up paying upward of $50,000 in medical bills due to extended hospitalization, treatment for tissue damage, and antivenin treatments. Get to an emergency room as quickly as possible to ensure the best possible outcome!