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Kaji

Snakebite - what's the best method?

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Voyageur,

 

You've piqued my curiosity!! Why the "leave it to professionals" secrecy? Aren't those the guys most likely to have better skills and info? Isn't it the rest of us who need your advice? Especially if we're "backcountry"?

 

jd

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FYI, speaking from the SE, coral snakebites are rare and the eastern range restricts them to the coastal plain. And the range of cottonmouths also ends approximately at the 'fall line', thereby limiting the types of poisonous snakes available in the uplands (rattlers and copperheads). But I have often been asked to identify dead harmless snakes, chopped into smithereens by ignorant persons with a hoe. I'd say, "that is a dead non-poisonous snake." They wouldn't believe it. So I've created a new mythical creature to describe these unfortunate animals, the 'copper-mouthed rattlemoccasin'. Rolls right off the tongue.

 

Nice info, CalicoPenn and Beavah.

 

On a recent nature hike I took the boys on, I told them that we'd be lucky to see a snake of any kind. And then we found several water snakes (which are often killed as cottonmouths) and a really big, beautiful copperhead which I nearly stepped on in the undergrowth. We gathered around the copperhead and I used the animal to demonstrate several aspects of snake behavior. Then we left it where it was and went on our way. Over the years I have seen hundreds of pit vipers in the woods, mixed up with thousands of boys and other people. And never a bite.

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Generally, a young poisonous snake is more dangerous than an older one. The older snake knows it takes up to 28 days to rebuild its venom supply, so it will often make dry strikes first to scare off the threat. Additional strikes are the more dangerous. The young snake hasn't learned this lesson yet.

Here in Georgia, it is against the law to kill any non-venomous snake ($1,000 fine, year in jail max.). The best rule for any snake found in the wild - leave it alone.

To tell a poisonous snake from non-poisonous, when looking at the snake from above and behind (back of its head), if you can see its eyes, it is non-poisonous.

We have coral snakes - very rare. The cottonmouths are found below Macon. We also have the Eastern Diamondback, which I believe carries the most venom of any snake in north America. They are always found within 100 miles of the coast.

We had the "Snakemaster" Steve Scruggs at our Pack meeting back in October. He puts on a great educational show for the kids (and adults). www.letsgetwild.net

Trivia question - how do you tell if a snake shed skin is from a poisonous or non-poisonous snake?

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Voyageur,

 

You've piqued my curiosity!! Why the "leave it to professionals" secrecy? Aren't those the guys most likely to have better skills and info? Isn't it the rest of us who need your advice? Especially if we're "backcountry"?

...............................................................

 

John,

 

The reasons are these....but first, I believe that the best form of treatment is not to get bit in the first place. Should that fail, the next best is a set of car keys.

 

Besides the youth, and adult scouters that come to this forum, there are others who view these boards to glean information, and who's outdoor skills could be lacking. This method requires training, the last thing I would want to hear is it being used by young scouts, or a greenhorn out on his first trek not fully aware of the problems that it could cause.

 

Also, this technique is specific to the Mojave Green, and the Eastern Diamond Back, but could be used for the Western Diamond Back. It can only be used on the limbs, but might have some value for bites into the webbing of the hand or fingers.

 

And, a lot of the items require an Rx....

 

 

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Thanks, Voyageur, I knew you would make sense - and I agree, snakebites are definitely a time when everyone needs to stay within their knowledge and skill zone.

 

jd

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I guess I should qualify a statement I made. I actually HAVE been bitten numerous times, just not by poisonous ones. The most recent occasion:

Saw a big black rat snake attempting to cross a four-lane highway on my way to work one morning. I knew someone behind me was going to aim for it so I stopped and ran up to it. It saw me and instantly coiled, ready to strike. I grabbed it and only was bitten once. Then I got back into my vehicle (Mountaineer), borrowed from a friend. Then I realized...I didn't have any way to hold this snake and drive at the same time. So after a few moments of male contemplation, I just set the snake down in the floor of the passenger seat and drove on to work.

I'd glance down from time to time to make sure the snake hadn't moved and everything was fine until I parked the vehicle. The snake was gone. I carefully got out and then looked under the seats. No snake. I closed it up tight and got my co-worker and together we probed every accessible place, seat cushions, floor mats, everything. No snake. That evening I drove home with the vehicle that I had borrowed from a young lady hoping that the snake had gotten out undetected. I was in a moral dilemma:

Do I tell her...or not?

So what would you do in this situation?

This young lady is deathly afraid of snakes. I'll tell everyone what happened later. Or....you can have some fun and complete the story with assorted endings - which is what I did in my mind for a while during my dilemma.

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Packsaddle - you know someone is bound to ask so just out of curiosity, why did you take the snake along with you anyway? Why not just release it at the side of the road near it's home? Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

 

Back when I worked our Council's day camp (we ran a 6 week program with paid staff, just like summer camp) we had a rule about snakes - don't pick them up - all the boys were told they weren't to pick up any snakes. The site of our camp was along the Des Plaines river, in an area known historically as habitat for the Eastern Massasuaga rattlesnake. A local tavern used to hold rattlesnake roundups through the 1970's (think the Simpson's snake bashing episode and you got the idea). To the untrained eye, a young Eastern Massasuaga looks rather similar to the Chicago Garter Snake (bet most of you didn't know Chicago has it's own garter snake - this species lives in a small area centered mostly around the city) so we felt the precaution was a wise one (though no one had run across a rattlesnake in this location for a while).

 

For better or worse, we didn't tell the Cub's why the restrictions on picking up snakes - we felt that would just encourage them to go into the woods looking for a rattlesnake. Instead we presented it as just being a rather rude thing to do to another creature - after all, we'd be pretty upset if some giant came by and snatched us up off the ground to poke and prod at us. To reinforce this, we also requested that the Cubs not pick up frogs, toads, salamanders, or any other creature in the woods.

 

Of course, as we all know, boys will push the rules to see what they can get away with, and we usually had a snake, toad, frog, etc. picked up at least once per week. One day, a boy came from behind a cabin (conveniently placed at the edge of the woods) carrying a snake and showing it off to all the assembled people. You get one guess as to what it was. I politely took the snake from the boy then gathered the boys around and explained to them just what kind of snake it was - showing the small rattle - then went off to release the snake into to woods - luckily neither I nor the lad was bitten. Then there was the time some boys found a live bat on the ground - but that's another story.

 

CalicoPenn

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