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Knowledge Is Key When It Comes To Snake Safety

Posted June 6, 2002

— Snakes are reptiles, sometimes venomous, often scary, but if you know how to protect yourself from them, they do not have to be dangerous.

There are 37 species of snakes in the state. Six are considered venomous. By far, the most common of those is the copperhead.

"They like wooded areas, particularly hardwoods or mixed-pine hardwoods and the edges of those habitats," said Alvin Braswell, director of herpetology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Copperheads are most active at dusk and a few hours after. Braswell said many of the ways to protect your family from the dangers associated with snakes are just common sense.

"Don't go out barefooted or with sandals walking around in the dark. You're asking to step on something that might be unfriendly to step on," Braswell said.

Brasswell said he is not afraid of snakes, but he is quick to add he has a healthy respect for them.

"I've worked with venomous snakes for many, many years, and I haven't been bitten by a venomous snake yet and have no plans to be. I'd like to retire with that record intact," he said.

How To Avoid Getting Bitten:

  1. Don't pick up snakes of any kind.
  2. Learn to recognize the poisonous snakes in your area.
  3. Always wear shoes or boots outside, especially at night.
  4. Wear gloves when gardening or doing yard work.
  5. Never put hands in holes or where you cannot see clearly.
  6. Turn over all trash or logs before picking them up.
  7. Brush off bark before sitting on a log or stump.
  8. Use caution when boating under low-hanging limbs and branches.
  9. Never play with or scare people with a live or dead snake.
  10. Sit still if a snake crawls on you or is close to you.
  11. Keep trash and debris cleaned from around the house. This may attract rodents, which are a snake's favorite food.

What To Do In Case Of Snakebite:

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Seek help immediately.
  3. You or a friend should call 911 and stay on the phone.
  4. Kill the snake (if possible) for positive identification.
  5. All snakebites should be considered dangerous if the identification of the snake is unknown.

How to recognize a venomous snakebite:

There are two types of venom from poisonous snakes: hemotoxic, which are those affecting the blood system, and neurotoxic, which are those affecting the nervous system.

Most venomous snakes have large fangs that are located in the front of the top jaw. These fangs are modified, hollow teeth that can be rotated forward to bite prey or a person.

All venomous snakebites result in one or more large fang marks. Pain and swelling occur within five to 10 minutes of the bite. Swelling and discoloration will spread and in extreme cases, nausea, vomiting, blistering, blurred vision and unconsciousness may occur, possibly leading to death.

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