The Only Good Snake...

Yes, we've all heard the axiom "The only good snake is a dead snake."  Unfortunately it is so far from the truth.  While not knowing if a snake is venomous or not could instill a goodly amount of fear in us when we see one, that is the best reason to learn more about them. 
Notice the red stripes bracketed in yellow identifying the venomous variety
Notice the Venomous version with the red bracketed between yellow

Very few people LIKE snakes but they are a fact of life in many parts of the US, especially South and West USA.  Hidden Valley RV Park has even been graced by an occasional reptile of the long and slender type. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 7,000–8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about 5 of those people die.   Incidentally, Florida has the most cases.

Two main groups in the US, coral snakes and pit vipers.  

The Corals hail from Texas to the Carolinas with the exception of the Arizona Coral which inhabits its name state and New Mexico.  These pretty babies bite with small teeth instead of fangs.  Although there are snakes that are similarly colored, a coral can be identified by the alternating bands of red, yellow and black stripes, the red always touching the yellow.  The very similar Scarlet King Snake is nonvenomous.  The axiom "when red meets yella it's a dangerous fella," is one we've employed here at the valley.

Pit Vipers include, rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads and they can be found anywhere in the US.  Their name comes (I always thought it was because they liked pits) from the tiny "pit" between their eye and nostril.  The pit makes it so they can detect heat enabling them to find prey at night.  These more drab looking reptiles have retractable fangs which shoot venom into their prey or an unsuspecting human. There is the possibility of receiving what's commonly called a "dry bite" meaning one without venom.  Bites from old and small snakes have less venom.  Some have felt that venom from smaller snakes is somehow more poisonous or dangerous however recent studies have refuted that belief.
Distinguishing Marks of a Rattlesnake
Notice the "Pit" and the "Rattle"

Bites from both types can range from hurtful to debilitating to death dealing if not treated immediately.  Symptoms can range from a merely a stinging pain to inability to breath due to swelling to affecting the brain and spinal cord.

Treatment, Old and New

Over the years, methods of treatment have included tourniquets, making "X" cuts at or above the fang marks and sucking out the venom (eeww) and icing the site to slow down the venom.  These have proven highly ineffective and currently experts advise
  • washing the bite area with soap and water 
  • keeping the affected limb still and placed lower than the heart 
  • Keeping the victim calm
  • seeking medical help immediately.  

Just as with other allergic reactions the site may become swollen or bruised looking and bleeding could exist.  Even with a small amount of venom you may experience faintness or numbness of the tongue.  These are evidence of shock and need quick attention.

When you get medical attention, a doctor will use and antivenom serum that is produced by injecting a small amount of serum into an animals blood (usually a horse) which then causes their immune systems to produce antibodies to combat the venom. The antibodies are then harvested from the animal in a concentrated form so that it can act quickly to neutralize venom in a person bitten by a snake.  Many persons can have an allergic reaction to the serum itself and are usually given epinephrine to counteract the allergy.
Infographic of Snakebite Do's and Don'ts

Can Snakebite Be Prevented? How?

As with many emergencies, preparedness is the best policy.  The Center for Disease Control (and some years living in snake country myself) provides these tips for prevention whether enjoying the outdoors, boondocking, camping or hiking in the wild or even in residential areas:
  • Do not play with or aggravate snakes
  • Keep landscape clear of brush and debris
  • Wear shoes (even in your RV and house-we found a coral snake in our closet once)
  • Wear boots when walking in snake country
  • Develop a habit of watching where you step and place your hands (even/especially when gardening)
Especially are these tips essential for RVers who are involved in gateguarding since the sites are in virtual snake playgrounds.

Live and Let Live

Whereas some may go by the adage "the only good snake is a dead snake," there are at least four  reasons to just let them be.
  • They will most likely just leave YOU alone
  • Many snakes are non-poisonous and benefit society
  • Snakes prey on rodents that can be a damaging nuisance and health risk themselves
  • Snake venom, when extracted, is used for various applications including treatment of breast cancer as well as stroke victims and it can also help in heart attack treatment. Venom is also used in the medicines of blood pressure. 
If you need a quick guide to help you identify snakes and prevent and treat bites, pin the following infographic onto pinterest or somewhere on your computer for future reference.  It's printed by permission from it's designer Alex Smit who's got a blog of his own with lots of unique outdoor and travel tips.

Snake Types, Bite Prevention and Treatment
Zoom in on Infographic to enlarge

So, in all, snake venom is very helpful for mankind.  It'd be wise to think twice before hating any snake.  If you have any snake experiences or other tips for our outdoor enthusiast readers...drop us a note in the comments.  Look forward to your feedback.

Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned HiddenValley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV and our RV Country Daily Magazine and don't forget to Say hello to the voice of Hidden Valley 

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