Monday, February 10 2020
Encountering an aggressive copperhead snake in January is pretty rare in most areas, but getting bit by a copperhead that was hiding in a tree is unheard of! Or so folks in Mississippi might think… until this recently happened to a hunter. It's the stuff of nightmares!
Last month, Mr. Hardy was taking the last of his dog pack back to his truck one evening when he encountered a flooded ditch. He found a narrow spot where he could jump across. When he leaned forward to jump, he felt a severe pain on the left side of his head. At that moment, he had no idea what had hit him, until he shined his light on a branch near his head and saw something he never expected— a snake coiled up on a tree limb about six feet off the ground. Startled by the flashlight, the snake struck at the hunter again and fell out of the tree.
Mr. Hardy was hunting with a friend and both identified the snake as a copperhead, which is common in Mississippi and venomous. Both hunters grabbed the dog and loaded her and their gear in the truck. Even though that took only a couple of minutes, Hardy was already feeling the effects of the bite. "It was a lot of severe burning. By the time I got in the truck the burning was spreading. It started spreading rapidly, the swelling,” he said. Amazingly, the two hunters didn't panic. They called the closest hospital so that the emergency medical team would be prepared when he arrived. Five vials of Crofab, an antivenom, was administered at that local hospital, and then Mr. Hardy was airlifted to a medical center in Jackson. After a day of hospital care, doctors agreed to release him because his wife is a nurse practitioner and could monitor his condition at home.
“Copperheads are basically terrestrial snakes, but it's been known that they will climb trees,” commented a local herpetologist. “One of the more common times for copperheads to climb is during summers when cicadas emerge from the ground and cling to trees and bushes while they shed their shells. During that time, copperheads will climb to eat the insects.” Since the hunter was bitten in January, that obviously wasn't the case here. One theory is that this particular copperhead ended up in the tree because it was caught in flash-flooding that occurred the day before. "I'll be looking [for snakes] the rest of my life," Hardy said. "I'll get some snake boots and a hat, I reckon."
If that scary incident wasn’t enough, a couple of weeks prior to that, another hunter, Mr. Ginn from Lexington, was trapped in a small hunting blind with a rattlesnake. It was a warm morning with temperatures in the 60s, so seeing a snake wasn’t too surprising, but hearing a rattling sound and then discovering a rattler next to his boot in a four foot by four foot space with no way to escape was more than alarming! With the commotion of the hunter jumping on his chair, the snake became more agitated and was striking at the chair each time it moved. Ginn took aim through his scope at the snake's head, fired, and missed. Scopes are great tools for shooting at long distances, but at a couple of feet, not so much. The hunter then put the barrel close to the snake's head as the snake was striking at it and fired. The rattling stopped, the snake was dead, but Ginn’s ears rang all day from firing a high-powered rifle in a metal building no larger than a typical public restroom stall "I shot twice. There's no telling what it would have measured on a decibel meter.” The snake measured about four and a half feet, had eight rattles, and its girth was larger than a canned drink.
Copperheads and rattlesnake are only two types of venomous snakes found in Mississippi. The cottonmouth is another. A local snake expert said Mississippians should not be surprised to see snakes at any time of year in the South. They don't truly hibernate. Snakes do something called brumate, at which time they're semi-active. They move around a little. Because of that, and combined with Mississippi's mild winters, you can find snakes in Mississippi twelve months of the year. Obviously these unfortunate snake encounters are not the norm, and should not keep people out of the woods. But keep in mind that in the South, snakes are active year-round, so protect yourself as best as you can by being very aware of your surroundings and wearing snake gaiters or snake proof boots.
Tuesday, October 01 2019
For the average person, chances of a potentially dangerous snake encounter are small. But those of us who hunt, fish, hike and work in the outdoors, are at greater risk because many of the areas we frequent are prime snake habitat. Serpents are shy by nature and do their best to avoid humans, but an unnerving close call with a snake can happen when you least expect it, no matter how experienced you are in the outdoors or how often you are out there. Whether you’re bow hunting, shed hunting, stalking big game, or turkey hunting in a southern swamp or the Texas brush country, you might stumble across a venomous snake, so be prepared. According to herpetologists, there are four groups of venomous snakes in the United States: rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins and coral snakes.
About 30 species of rattlesnakes inhabit a variety of environments across the U.S. In the eastern half of the country, the timber rattler thrives on rocky ridges and mountain sides from 1,000 to 3,000 feet in elevation. Further south, the timber snake, along with its close relative the eastern diamondback, are at home in swamps and thick, mixed forests. Five different species of western rattlers live in diverse habitats from sea level to 9,000 feet–from the desert to rocky hillsides and canyons, on grassy coastal plains and in conifer forests.
Copperheads are the most numerous and most frequently encountered venomous snake, and have bitten more people in the United States than any other pit viper. Copperheads range from southern New England, south to the southeastern U.S. and west through the Ozarks and into Texas. Their young are hatched between August and mid-September, which is prime time for humans to trek into their their territory.
Cottonmouths are also pit vipers and range roughly from the Carolinas west to Oklahoma and south to Florida and Texas.
Smallest but deadliest of North America’s venomous snakes are two species of coral snake, which belong to the same family as cobras, sea snakes and mambas. Coral snakes are often confused with non-venomous king snakes due to their similar colored band patterns. You can easily distinguish the two if you remember the phrase: “Red touches yellow, kill a fellow. Red touches black, friend to Jack.” There really is some truth to that rhyme.
KNOW WHERE SNAKES LIVE
Wherever you roam, know where rattlesnakes live and especially remember the word “rocks.” Prominent rocky ridges marked with crevices, ledges, and shady dens are all great hiding spots for snakes. Keep an eye peeled as you traverse rocky habitat. If you’re turkey hunting, always check the ground near your setup tree and inside your ground blind before sitting down to call a gobbler. Check the brush at the base of a tree with a stick. Probe the brush with your pole or shooting stick before reaching too close. Many times hunters don’t follow the beaten path that hikers take. When off-trail, avoid thick brush in the woods where a snake might be hiding. The rattlesnake is an ambush predator that hides and coils beside logs and rocks. When you walk up to a fallen tree or large stone, step up on it rather than over it, as there could be a snake lurking on the other side. After ankles and legs, most snake bites occur on hands and arms, so never put your hands in spots where you can’t see what might be hiding there. If you come upon a steep stretch of trail that requires scrambling up and over rocks, check each ledge or crevice.
If you ever hear a rattle or see a snake, back slowly away with no sudden movements. Hold your trekking pole or stick between you and the snake, if you have one. If it lunges, it will go for the pole rather than you. Keep in mind sometimes they rattle, sometimes not, you never know. Beware of silent slitherers! When you are safely away, calm down, catch your breath, make a big detour around the snake and mosey on to enjoy your hike or hunt.
WHAT TO DO IF BITTEN BY A SNAKE
If you are bitten, the Mayo Clinic advises:
- Call 911 immediately or get yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.
- While waiting for medical help, stay calm and position the body so that the bite is at or below heart level.
- Remove jewelry or tight clothing before swelling starts.
- DO NOT apply ice or a tourniquet on or near the bite.
- DO NOT cut the wound or attempt to suck out the venom.
- DO NOT drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed the body's absorption of venom.
PREVENT SNAKE BITE
Just like you learn in the Scouts, preparation and prevention are key. Always wear long pants and snake chaps or snake gaiters with thick footwear that fangs cannot penetrate. Knee-high snake proof boots are a good alternative to wearing gaiters if you prefer. We have all heard the basic hunter safety lessons thousands of times and unfortunately, over time we can become complacent. When this happens, the chances of an accident can drastically increase. Safety should always come first, so take time to review not only firearm safety, but basic first aid and these tips on snake bite prevention as well. And please pass your knowledge down to new hunters.
Thursday, August 08 2019
The odds of the “average” person being bitten by a rattlesnake is low— that is, if you’re an “average” city dweller or someone who doesn’t hike, hunt, or work around timber. But what if you spend a great deal of time outdoors in known snake country either working or playing or both? Then you might want to take the threat of snakebite seriously and protect yourself with rattlesnake gaiters or by wearing snake proof boots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 7,000 - 8,000 venomous snakebites occur per year in the United States. If you like statistics, here are a few more:
• 55% of people bitten by snakes are male, ages 17 to 27.
• 28% of snakebite victims were intoxicated.
• 50% of bites occur on the feet and legs; 50% are to the fingers and hands.
• 57% of snakebite victims were handling the snake at the time of the bite.
A triangular shaped head and cat-like eyes are giveaways that a snake is venomous. Non-venomous snakes have round heads and round pupils. Venomous snakes will normally be heavier and fatter, too. The Western Diamondback, also called the Pacific Western Rattlesnake, is one of the most common member of the viper family. A common myth about any species of rattlesnake is that they are vicious and go around looking for someone to bite. The fact is that most actually only strike in self-defense or to obtain food. Self-defense includes when they are startled, and that’s exactly when the “average” person is bitten— when they accidentally step on or near a viper, or are working in tall weeds or around wood piles. When not basking out in the sun, most of a snake’s time is spent hiding under a rock or a bush. If you have ever hiked through the woods, chances are you have passed within a foot or so from a rattler and luckily never knew it.
Make no mistake, a bite from a rattler (or copperhead or water moccasin, etc.) can be very serious business. Their venom breaks down the tissue around the bite. When a rattlesnake bites its prey, this action of breaking down the tissue hastens the digestive process and makes it easier for the snake to swallow its prey. If a human is bitten, there is often a loss of tissue around the bite. The snake’s teeth also transfer bacteria and the venom suppresses the immune system of the victim, making it tougher to fight off infection. While this rarely causes death, it can result in the loss of a limb. And the entire process is extremely painful and can be expensive due to the cost of anti-venom.
So why take a chance? If you spend a good amount of time where snakes live, protect yourself by wearing snake proof gaiters or snake proof boots. Luckily, Razer snake gaiters for women and snake gaiters for men are the same product. Children are bitten more frequently than adults. Most children are bitten because they often go barefoot or actually pick up a rattlesnake out of curiosity. Make sure the kids are wearing snake chaps sized just for them.
And if you are bitten, keep in mind that all that stuff about tourniquets, cutting open bites, or trying to suck out the venom has been disavowed by current medical thinking. Don’t apply ice to the wound either. Instead, the advice is simply to seek medical treatment immediately. If you’re a long way from that, try to keep your heart rate down and the bite location below the level of your heart. Your best snakebite kit is your cellphone or your car keys! And although it might be counter-intuitive, avoid killing snakes since they are valuable to our ecosystem. Plus, in many states, illegally killing a snake is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and/or jail time.
Tuesday, June 25 2019
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 7,000-8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes annually and that a small number of those victims die. Most snake bite deaths occur in children, the elderly, or with people who do not seek medical attention. While most bites are not fatal if treated by medical professionals, getting bitten is still the stuff of nightmares— swelling and discoloration of the surrounding tissue, intense pain, itching, nausea, rapid pulse, loss of muscle coordination and weakness, not to mention the cost of antivenom. Areas around the bite may suffer tissue death. It is not uncommon for victims bitten on the fingers and toes to have them amputated. The venom of a rattlesnake is primarily a hemotoxin, meaning that it works on the blood by destroying red blood cells and disrupting coagulation. It has the potential to cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage. Victims of venomous bites typically show signs of envenomation within 30 to 60 minutes. It’s crucial to get to a hospital immediately! While this information should be taken seriously, it is not meant to scare anyone away from enjoying the great outdoors, rather it's a reminder of what to do if you encounter a snake.
First, assume all snakes are venomous and leave them alone. Depending on the state you live in, there are many species of rattlesnakes— timber, prairie, canebrake, diamondback, and many others. The greatest concentration is found in the Southwestern United States and in Northern Mexico. For example, Arizona is home to 13 species of rattler, more than any other state. These snakes are commonly called pit vipers. The "pit" is an extremely sensitive organ located between the snake's eye and nostril on both sides of its head. These pits are so sensitive that the snake can detect the body temperature of a mouse, and judge its distance— whether that be a few inches or as far away as two feet. All snakes have an electrostatic sensor connected to its tongue that allows it to "taste" or chemically sense the air around it. Snakes are extremely attune to vibrations in the ground, too, so hiking with a stick or pole is a good way to “warn” snakes something is moving their way. Most pit vipers have tails with a series of rattles, hence the name rattlesnake. When rattlesnakes are disturbed, the rapid vibration of their tails will make a characteristic rattling sound to warn the intruder of their presence. However, not all rattlesnakes will “rattle” when disturbed. For this reason, when you are in rattlesnake country, pay close attention to where you walk, sit and place your hands. Wear snake gaiters or snake boots to protect your lower legs.
All venomous snakebites should be considered life-threatening.When someone has been bitten by a venomous snake, time is of the essence. Get medical help immediately! If possible, call ahead to the emergency room so antivenom can be ready when the victim arrives. Until then, keep the victim calm, restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom. Wash the bite area with soap and water. Remove any rings or constricting items, as the affected area will swell. Do not apply a tourniquet, cut into the bite or try to suction out the venom, as doing so may cause more harm than good.
While no one wants to encounter a snake, keep in mind they occupy a valuable place in our ecosystem and should not be killed upon sight. They help reduce rodent populations, which destroy crops and sometimes carry diseases which can infect people. In general, snakes don't purposefully position themselves to frighten people. They'd much rather avoid encounters and usually will flee. There is no good reason to kill a snake except in the situation of a venomous snake posing immediate danger to people or pets. Snakes usually bite people only if they are molested on purpose or startled by accident; it's their only means of self-defense. Get outside this summer and have fun! Being in snake country is nothing to worry about if you take sensible precautions. Please stay alert and appreciate snakes as an integral part of wildlife.
Sunday, April 28 2019
Did you know? Copperhead mating season lasts from February to May and from late August to October. This means that rising temperatures coupled with mating season leads to more and more snake sightings. In fact, the number of urban sightings this April was overall higher than this time last year. Copperhead snakes are some of the more commonly seen North American snakes. They're also the most likely to bite. Copperhead snakes are found from southern New England to West Texas and northern Mexico: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Copperheads will be a little bit more territorial now because they are trying to mate. And keep in mind that the venom of juvenile copperheads is just as potent as an adult’s.
Copperheads reside in an extremely wide range of habitats and are quite tolerant of “habitat alteration." This means that they can survive well in suburban areas. Copperheads can sometimes be found in wood and sawdust piles, abandoned farm buildings, junkyards and old construction areas. They often seek shelter under surface cover such as boards, sheet metal, logs or large flat rocks. Since they can live just about anywhere, copperheads bite more people than any other U.S. snake species, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State University. But their venom is mild and rarely fatal. Generally, rattlesnakes are considered the most venomous and the most likely to cause death.
Copperheads are pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Pit vipers have heat-sensory pits between eye and nostril on each side of head which are able to detect minute differences in temperatures so that the snakes can accurately strike the source of heat, which is often potential prey. Copperhead behavior is very much like that of most other pit vipers— they are generally docile outside of mating season. They would much rather lay motionless and let you just walk on by. Most strikes result from a defensive reaction to being stepped on or startled.
Keep in mind that snakes of many species are through hunkering down now that the weather is warmer, making human encounters more likely with ALL snakes. With extensive urbanization and encroachment of housing developments into the natural habitats of snakes and other reptiles, children playing outdoors are at greater risk for encountering a snake and consequently suffering a snakebite. More than 1,300 U.S. kids suffer bites each year on average, with one in four attacks occurring in Florida and Texas, a new study reveals. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., reported snakebites to children and about one-fifth of these bites required admission to an intensive care unit, researchers found. Snake Chaps for Kids should be considered, along with snake proof boots or snake gaiters for adults if your family is active outdoors. Experts also recommend keeping dogs leashed instead of allowing them to roam free. Dogs are at increased risk of being bitten due to holding their nose to the ground while investigating the outdoors. Speak to your veterinarian about canine rattlesnake vaccines and what to do if your pet is bitten.
Although you shouldn’t let the fear of snakes keep you from enjoying the great outdoors, play it safe. Be alert and stick to well-used trails and avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day. Fish and Wildlife experts recommend knowing what to do in the event of a snake strike.
• Stay calm and seek medical care immediately.
• Do not apply ice or a tourniquet.
• Do not try to suck out the venom, take aspirin or ibuprofen or try home remedies.
• Remove watches, rings, etc., which may constrict swelling
Thursday, March 14 2019
The calendar says it’s not even officially Spring yet, but when the warming weather causes rattlesnakes to come out of hibernation, it doesn’t matter what the date. It’s time to beware— especially in Arizona. A hospital in the Phoenix area with a toxicology referral center sees 50-75 rattlesnake bite patients annually. Of those, 5-10 people die from the bites. So far in 2019, two people have been treated for snake bite and have lived.
The first was a Phoenix man who made medical history, but in a very painful way. Samuel Evans became the first patient treated with a new antivenom since its recent approval. Evans was trying to move a rattler from a hiking trail in the White Tank Mountains, when the pit viper bit his thumb. At the hospital, he was treated with CroFab antivenom, but developed a serious allergic reaction.
As fate would have it, Evans became the first patient to be treated with the FDA approved alternative called Anavip. Luckily it worked! No allergic reaction this time. Anavip also could be effective in preventing the delayed bleeding that can occur after rattlesnake bites. Anavip isn’t cheap. Each vial costs $1,220 and the average dosage is expected to be around 16 vials.
That total of around $20,000 might not sound so bad when it means saving a limb or even a life. Sources say it’s actually a lot less expensive than the older product. Antivenoms in general are very expensive.
Just a week ago, a 75-year old man rode his bike for a half-hour to seek help after he was bitten by a rattlesnake while on the Apache Wash trail in Phoenix. Jim Watkins was on a bike ride with a friend when he lost momentum and fell off his bike beside the trail and into a bush. If that wasn’t bad enough, he was bitten by a rattlesnake! “It felt like a bee sting. And then as I looked down, I could see the snake was recoiling back up, but still vibrating his rattles. And so I pulled away,” Watkins said.
Watkins, who was bit on his left calf, then rode with his friend for 30 minutes to get back to the trailhead. His friend called poison control right away to seek help. Their advice: "This is serious, you need to go to an emergency room.” Once he reached the nearest hospital, Watkins received three treatments of anti-venom – 12 vials in all – that thankfully counteracted the snake's venom and reduced the swelling.
Most Arizona emergency departments and hospitals have anti-venom. But there's only a couple of hospitals that have medical toxicologists that specialize in this care. Both of these men were lucky! Anyone who gets bit by a rattlesnake should get anti-venom as soon as possible. Wherever the bite is, is where most of the damage is going to occur. And that means breakdown of muscle and skin, as well as a lot of edema and swelling. The most important factor in a rattlesnake bite is to consider how much venom is injected.
As the weather warms up, rattlesnakes are out on the hiking trails. To anyone planning on hiking, biking, fishing, or working in snake country, follow these tips:
In the warm deserts, rattlesnakes are most active from March through October. In the spring, they are active during daylight hours. As days become increasingly hot around early May, rattlesnakes become more active at night and spend the day in a spot of shade or a cool shelter. Don’t take a chance! Be vigilant and take precautions to be safe in snake country— whether that be in the desert or the woods.
Tuesday, January 08 2019
Did you know that every year, in the world of manufacturing and construction, about 150,000 employee injuries are reported? That’s one of the reasons the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) was established— to ensure good conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. One such bit of assistance comes in the form of establishing a list of personal protective equipment that employers must provide or reimburse you for. Commonly referred to as “PPE” the reason this type of equipment is used or worn by employees is to minimize exposure to a variety of hazards. Examples of PPE include such items as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing devices, hard hats, respirators and more. In other words, equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Depending on the industry, these injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. In some cases, those workplace hazards (injury and even death) could result from poisonous snakes— rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, coral snake, and others!
Any kind of construction or manufacturing work calls for the need for proper footwear. Without it, slips, trips and falls are likely to occur. But if you’re working outdoors in rattlesnake country (oil & gas industry, landscaping, logging, utilities, surveyors, park rangers, etc.) you need protection from snake bite to potentially save your life! Rattlesnakes can be found in virtually every type of habitat in the Americas. Most live near open areas that have an abundance of rocks. This is because rocks offer cover from predators, and are also home to the rodents they feast on such as mice, lizards and insects. Rocks, too, provide places that rattlesnakes can bask in the sunlight to warm their bodies. Many rattlers also live in the deserts, marshes, prairies and forests. Although new species of rattlesnakes continue to be discovered, there are currently about 20 species in the United States. That’s a lot of snakes to be aware of!
Think of PPE as a support system of sorts for the work your job requires you to do. PPE is equipment that will protect you against health or safety risks on the job. Working outdoors where vipers are known to live is physically demanding and much more hazardous than your average desk job, so your safety equipment should minimize that physical risk as much as possible. You have a lot to get done each day. Snake gaiters and snake proof boots can provide some peace of mind so you can focus on the task at hand. No form of snake bite protection can guarantee 100% protection, including the brands found on this website. You must still be aware and vigilant while in snake habitat, but you can also reduce the risk of snake bite through prevention. Whatever footwear or legwear you choose, remember that it should fit properly and comfortably so follow the manufacturer’s wear and care instructions.
Snakes bites are most prevalent between April and October, and although snakes are not "out to get you," bites can and do occur year-round. Prevention is best. Don't take a chance! Wear snake gaiters or snake boots or full protection snake chaps when in known snake country - whether that be the desert or woods - and greatly reduce your chances of deadly fangs penetrating your lower leg or foot. Keep this in mind when out having fun, too. Wear snake bite protection when hiking, hunting, fishing, and even working around brush piles in your own backyard.
Wednesday, September 19 2018
Did you know that September 19th is International Snakebite Awareness Day? Each year, 5.4 million people world-wide are bit by venomous snakes. Somewhere around 100,000 die and another 400,000 end up with physical or mental disabilities. In the United States, an average of 7,500 people get bit each year.
Who knew? And that's exactly the problem according to Jay Fox, a professor and associate dean of research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He's also president of the International Society of Toninology, which proclaimed today International Snakebite Awareness Day.
Being aware is a good thing, especially where getting bit by a snake is concerned. For example, the venom from a cottonmouth or copperhead rarely kills, although during the time spent recovering from the bite you might wish you were dead! The pain can be unbearable.
The range of copperhead snakes, which are found in the southeastern United States, extends from Texas and Louisiana to Southern New England, which is widely considered the snake’s northern limit. Experts say the snakes are mostly found in states that have long periods of warm weather. Another particularly venomous species is the timber rattlesnake. Should you encounter a snake, slowly create distance.
Sometimes hikers are not sure that they have been bitten. A snake fang puncture might not go all the way through your shoe or pants even if you are struck. You might feel "something" and perhaps even glimpse "something" moving away through the weeds. You may not hear a rattle. But a pair of puncture marks at the wound is definitely a sign of a venomous snake bite, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of a bite can include redness or swelling, severe pain, nausea and vomiting, labored breathing, disturbed vision, increased salivation and sweating, and numbness or tingling in the face or limbs. The CDC says to seek medical attention as soon as possible in the case of a snake bite, to try to remember the snake's color and shape and to keep still and calm to slow the spread of any venom. Those who cannot get to the hospital right away should lie or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart, wash the bite with soap and water and cover it with a clean, dry dressing. It is not recommended to take steps such as applying a tourniquet or attempting to suck out the venom, according to the CDC.
Prevention is always the safest route, so be proactive and wear snake gaiters or chaps or snake boots whenever in the woods or desert where snakes are known to live. Don't take a chance! Snake bite protection can safe your life.
Thursday, July 26 2018
Have you ever wondered how the average rattlesnake hunts and attacks its prey? Not human prey— most snakes are not aggressive toward people unless startled or provoked— but their usual food of frogs, lizards, mice and other rodents? Snakes are often thought of as incredibly stupid eating machines, but it turns out that the more you look at snakes, the more sophisticated their behavior becomes, according to recently published findings in the Journal of Herpetology.
Normally, rattlesnakes rely on ambush, sitting back and waiting for the prey to come within reach before a lightning-quick strike with their fangs. Sometimes they even use their tails as bait, wiggling them slightly as a worm-like lure for creatures such as skinks that would be attracted to worms. After the initial strike, and depending on the type of prey, snakes might hang back and wait for the venom to take hold. When you think about it, this is a smart plan for vipers because their prey might attempt to strike back at them after being bitten.
Scientific studies provide insight into the ways venomous snakes adapt to the behavior of their dangerous prey. For example, centipedes are armed with two venom-filled front legs that often act like fangs. As you might expect, centipedes don’t exactly go through life expecting problems. In fact, the creatures—which appear to have traded brains for legs—often let the snakes come right up to them, and sometimes even went so far as to crawl over the reptiles! Snakes seemed to have a healthy respect for the risks involved with centipedes but they will certainly aggressively attack them. Observations show that the reptiles would often approach the centipedes with a raised head—potentially to keep their eyes and sensitive scent organs out of the centipede’s reach. Snakes don't need to be that careful with your average mouse!
Snakes can even get the best of their prey AFTER death. Snakes—like many other reptiles—retain their reflexes even hours after death. The bite reflex is extremely strong in venomous snakes, because their instinct is to deliver one extremely quick bite, move away, and wait for their venom to work. The bodies of snakes often writhe around for some time after they are dead. It’s a similar reflex to that of a headless chicken running around for a short time after it is decapitated. The mechanism behind this eerie behavior is a nervous system pre-programmed to make certain movements without the brain needing to send a signal. And a decapitated venomous snake head is evidently pre-programmed to bite in response to a stimulus—such as a someone trying to pick it up. So if you see a rattlesnake in your backyard, for example, and you grab a shovel and kill it, you should still beware! If you go to dispose of it, the severed head could still bite you! No kidding!
Of course the vast majority of snake bites in the U.S. are the result of people messing around with the creatures, so its best to simply leave a venomous snake alone. If you need to move one from your property or a public area, call an expert to humanely move them since snakes play valuable roles in the ecosystem and deserve respect as wildlife. Prevention is best. Wear snake gaiters or snake boots or full protection snake chaps when out hiking, hunting, or working around timber. Then if you do encounter a commen Western diamondback rattlesnake, for example, you will be protected if it perceives you as a threat and strikes.
Tuesday, May 01 2018
As many areas of the country settle into warmer temperatures, especially in the desert regions, snakes are slithering out of their dens and becoming increasingly more active. Once temperatures begin to hit 75 degrees, snake season begins. But that’s not all… it’s also time for the inevitable emergence of spiders and scorpions, too! Yikes! But that doesn’t mean we should avoid the great outdoors and stay home. It just means to take common sense precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
One of the best ways to avoid being bitten by a snake is to think about where you put your hands and feet. Look carefully before moving rocks or any object that may be providing shade for a snake. Use caution when walking through fields with tall grass, or along rivers or creeks. Keep in mind snakes are more active in the cooler hours of the day, which means they are more active at night through early morning, so consider installing outdoor lighting fixtures along porches and sidewalks, and carry a flashlight after dark. If you have a backyard swimming pool with a messy log pile next to it and dog food lying out, then you've created the perfect environment to invite rodents, which invites snakes.
Some regions that received more rain than usual this year during the cooler months means there is plenty of spring vegetation to feed the rodents and birds that rattlesnakes love to eat. When the ecosystem flourishes, the animal flourishes, and a number of those birds and rodents are prey to venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes. But that doesn't mean more rattlesnakes now, experts say. That may happen in a couple years, but not until rattlesnakes get fat and happy from plentiful food and make more baby rattlesnakes. As the weather gets warmer, we see snakes come out to sun themselves and look for food, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are MORE snakes than previous years, spring just means all snakes become more active and are therefore seen more often.
Nearly all rattlesnake bites result from human error, not rattlesnake aggression. It’s no surprise that the stereotypical bite happens to a male ages 17 to 27 with large amounts of alcohol involved! All rattlesnakes can be aggressive at certain times, but not all rattlesnakes are aggressive in general. Some don’t possess their iconic “rattle” but it’s best to assume all snakes are venomous. Although new species of rattlesnakes continue to be discovered, there are currently about 20 species in the United States (13 of those are found in Arizona). The most commonly encountered is the western diamondback; it accounts for the most bites and deaths. They are not aggressive; they're defensive. If you see any type of rattlesnake, don't make it feel threatened and leave a lot of room between you and the snake.
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake or other venomous snake the Mayo Clinic lists these steps:
• Call 911
• Remain calm and move beyond the snake's striking distance.
• Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
• Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
• Clean the wound, but don't flush it with water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
Be sure not to to do these things:
• Don't use a tourniquet or apply ice.
• Don't cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
• Don't drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed your body's absorption of venom.
• Don't try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
Of course your best defense against venomous snakes is not to take a chance in the first place. Adults can wear snake bite protection such as lower leg snake gaiters or full chaps or snake proof boots when working or playing in snake country. Snake chaps for children also available. Be safe and have fun!