Snakes are of some concern when out in the wild or even around home, especially if you happen to live near water or woods. People have a general fear of snakes dating back to Adam and Eve, which is the beginning of time for those that believe the bible. According to the bible, man will strike the serpents head when ever they see them. Sounds about like the norm for today. LOL Actually today there are many of us, like me, that will give snakes a pass if they don’t present a danger. On various occasions I have had to convince others in my party to give a snake a pass. I love snakes and had one as a pet. It was a corn snake.
So what’s the risk of encountering a poisonous snake? In my experience, most of what I encounter is non-poisonous. Being an outdoorsman and fisherman, cotton mouths are the most common for me. Other snakes that I typically encounter are; garter, green, black rat snake, various water snakes, and hog nose snakes. I have never seen a rattle snake, and it has been over a decade since I’ve seen a copperhead. As a side note, my brother’s dog was kind of bit on the head by a copperhead about 2 weeks ago. I wasn’t there to ID the snake so I can only take their word. The dog was fine, so it may have received a dry bite or just didn’t get penetration since the skull area doesn’t have much “meat”. A corn snake looks similar to a copperhead.
To my estimation, the risk is fairly low of being bitten by a poisonous snake in the US. By statistics, 70-80% of bites occur on the hand area. Using the power of deduction, people are messing with them or trying to pick them up. Leave them alone. You don’t touch a hot stove do you? An accidental bite would most likely occur on the leg area.
Now that you have my experience on snake encounters, what should you do to prevent being bit by a snake? The best items you can have are your eyes and brain. Knowing the snakes that reside in your area and their habitats, and always looking for dangers in your area are the 2 key things you can do.
What does snake habitat look like? To put it simply, if it looks snaky, approach with caution. Snakes like to hide under things like brush piles, fallen trees, logs, boards, in old buildings, under tarps. Basically anywhere that you might expect to find their main prey items such as; mice, rats, frogs, toads and, small reptiles, you may encounter a snake. Cotton mouths like water. Naturally any waters edge is suspect, not to say that a cotton mouth won’t wander away from water to find food sources. I have encountered cottonmouths hundreds of yards away from the closest water source. Snakes can be anywhere.
Here are some bullet point that I have been taught or learned over the years.
- Watch where you step
- Watch where you put your hands
- Watch where you sit
- check under logs or fallen trees before you step over or sit on them
- When crossing a log, step high onto the top of the log, and a long step on the other side. Never just step “over” a log. Hope that is understandable. If not let me know.
- avoid leaving things out that may attract snakes, (rodent food, hiding places, toys, boards and tarps)
- use a stick to lift anything that may have a snake under it.
When camping these rule still apply. One thing I was taught to do is, drive steaks into the ground and put your boots upside down on the steaks. Also, when you go to put your boots back on in the morning, grab them by the toe area and shake and beat them on the ground to dislodge any snake, spider or scorpion that may be hiding in them. Never just crawl out of your tent half awake and put your boots on.
Snakes are cold blooded and will look for heat sources in cool or cold weather. That’s kind of something to keep in mind. When they are cold they are a bit sluggish and will warm themselves on rocks in the sun. I used this knowledge to capture my snake after it escaped in the house. I put a box with holes in it and a heating pad next to the wall, cranked up the AC and caught the snake within 2 hours. Refrigerators also create heat that attract snakes. It’s not uncommon to find snake skin in the crawl space of a house in the insulation under where the refrigerator is located.
There is a technique for crossing swampy areas. That is stepping on high grounds most likely tufts of vegetation. Those tufts as well as tree bases are likely areas that cottonmouths will lye. Always look before you step in those cases. Arg!!! Danger everywhere! I’m not sure how many will venture into areas like that besides me, but I will put it out there. I cannot stress enough about stepping up and onto a log and then down instead of just climbing over it no matter how ‘small’ it is. Snakes can hide.
Snake boots are also a great investment for those of us that get out a lot. I have a pair that was mainly bought because I fish. I got tired of having to watch my step while fishing. Being so focused on whatever one is doing can leave you open to being bit. I don’t want to be worried about where I put my feet. Not that I don’t still watch where I step, Its more of a peace of mind thing. One of my brothers talked to a wildlife photographer that told him a story about his snake boots. The photographer got a pair of snake boots and got “bit” within a week of wearing them. Five years later that was the only time he needed them. Proper awareness and personal risk assessment will determine your need to take it to that extreme.
I kind of downplay the risk of being bitten. That may be from years of experience and statistics, but its something to be aware of. Educate yourself on the risk and what you should do if bit by a snake.
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