AND QUESTIONS ARRIVE IN THE SPRING: PART I
people consider robins a harbinger of spring; others look upon hyacinths
or daffodils as a sure sign that winter has lost its grip. I use a different
indicator: in springtime the number of questions I get asked about snakes
increases dramatically. The most common is "what kind of snake
is this?" Since most people today carry a camera in the form of
a cellphone, I receive easily identifiable photos.
But I also
get other questions about snakes, including what to do in a given situation.
Following are a few of the snake questions I have received within the
last month. Some of them I have heard almost every year at about this
time for decades.
Q. Is it
true that snakes are able to strike one-third to one-half of their body
is certainly about as close as anyone should get to a rattlesnake or
copperhead. Personally, I would make it the full length of the snake
or more. Being 3 feet away from a 6-foot diamondback that is as big
around as a softball doesn't seem far enough to me.
a snake bite a person more than once?
The amount of venom delivered will vary from strike to strike and can
even be more on a second or third bite than on the first one.
Q. If someone
is bitten by a poisonous snake, what is the best thing to do? I have
read that it is best not to run because venom can get into the bloodstream
faster, but I can't imagine not running away as fast as possible.
physical exertion of anyone who's been bitten by a venomous snake is
important. The recommendation Mike Dorcas and I make in the book "Snakes
of the Southeast" is to get the victim to a hospital or emergency
treatment facility as quickly as possible. If you can, call ahead and
try to get a physician who has treated snakebite.
Q. At what
distance does a snake feel threatened? How close do you have to be before
A. I have
seen small copperheads strike from more than 10 feet away, which is
clearly too far for it to be effective. I have also seen large cottonmouths
and rattlesnakes rapidly crawl into underground retreats when I have
been more than 30 feet away. All those snakes clearly felt threatened.
Q. Do pit
vipers always inject as much venom into a person as they can when they
bite? I know they are just trying to protect themselves, but do they
try to do as much damage as possible?
Ironically, venomous snakes would just as soon not use any venom when
they strike a person in self-defense. Venom is a complex protein that
varies biochemically from species to species but is presumably a very
costly commodity for a snake to produce. Therefore, if a threat, such
as a person, can be warded off without injecting any venom, that is
a preferable to using up venom - sort of like a firing a cannon to convince
the enemy to retreat but not using cannonballs. A relatively high proportion
of venomous snakes in the country, and probably everywhere, do not inject
any venom when they bite in self-defense, or they inject only a small
a gas leaf blower or loud power tool cause snakes to move to a quieter
location? Could I drive snakes away from my house this way?
do not hear airborne sounds effectively but they can feel vibrations
on the ground's surface. Loud machine noises probably would not drive
snakes away unless the motor was causing ground vibrations they might
respond to. A snake would likely discern a person walking nearby. Depending
on the circumstances it might immediately crawl away. If it thought
it was well concealed and not threatened, it might stay put.
- more questions people ask about snakes.
you have an environmental question or comment, email