Snake Bites & Misinformation

Our society has an unfortunate propensity to demonize snakes. Humans tend to fear what they don’t truly understand and snakes are no exception. It is a shame considering how beneficial they are to keeping our ecosystem healthy and thriving.

From a young age, it is ingrained in many a mind that any snake you see should be taken care of because it is dangerous. This notion is even true in areas that only nonvenomous snakes call home. You may have heard stories about how somebody saw a Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon Piscivorous) in Wisconsin or a Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) in Minnesota. In reality, they do not occur in these states at all. (Cottonmouth Range) (Copperhead Range) Misrepresentation of facts is a dangerous and scarily commonplace occurrence.

The amount of misinformation on the subject of our serpent friends is astronomical. Snakes are not malicious and do not want to attack anyone, nor do they have any desire to interact with humans. All any snake wants to do is live their life in peace. They certainly don’t want to waste energy or in the case of venomous snakes, venom, trying to ward off a human intrusion into their home environment. Many will claim that snakes will chase you as if they have iniquitous intentions. This notion is wholly incorrect. (WSED “Snakes Chasing People”)

Snake bites are a huge fear for many people and we know phobias are, by definition, irrational. There is no shame in being scared. The will to learn and understand is vital to amending our erroneous beliefs.

Related:  Countering Copperhead Misinformation

The probability of a snake bite goes up substantially when a person harasses the animal in some way; whether it be handling, poking at it, or any other variety of proximate activity. If we keep our eyes open while remaining diligent when we are in areas known to have frequent snake encounters and don’t go sticking our hands where we can’t see, the chance of actually being bitten is considerably lower.

Of course, there is still the possibility that a bite can occur through no fault of the person or snake. If a venomous snake bites you, the best course of action is to do nothing to the wound and go directly to the hospital. Anything else is a waste of time and only puts a person in more danger. Venom extractions kits are commonly believed to help suck the venom out of a bite. However, these devices do no such thing and can cause harm. Some people will say that they have used them and did not have to go to the hospital. That is because, as stated before, venomous snakes use their venom to catch prey and would rather not waste it on defending themselves. Dry bites occur in a significant amount of cases; snakes can control their venom and don’t use it every time they bite. A lot of the time they are bluffing to try to scare a predator (person) away. Mistaken identity is a significant culprit in people thinking they have survived a venomous snake bite. People tend to think everything is a cottonmouth or rattlesnake. Some medical professionals even spread false information regarding snake bites, that’s how pervasive myths about snakes are.

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Killing a snake after being bitten is ill-advised. Not only does it put one at risk of being bitten again. If you live in North America, there is no useful purpose to having the snake identified. All bites from venomous species are treated with CroFab antivenom, aside from Coral Snake (Micrurus sp.) bites. If you live in an area where coral snakes live it is wise to learn to identify them accurately, they can be easily confused with some Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis sp.). (Differences Between Coral Snakes & Kingsnakes)

The best precautions for remaining safe while coexisting with snakes are to learn to identify your local species and to stay attentive when you are in areas that you know seeing a snake is possible. Peacefully coexisting is beneficial to both humans and snakes alike. Unless you happen to be blocking their only escape route, they are trying to return to their safe place behind you, or smelled food (like fresh fish) and got curious. In all of these cases remaining calm and merely getting out of their way is the easiest, safest option. In the case of the fisherman, a splash with some water or a little noise making can gently persuade the snake to move in the other direction. Remember that they usually frighten reasonably quickly. If you respect their space, they will respect yours.


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