Let’s face it: Snakes cause fear in humans. Be it from evolution or a fear you believe came from scripture they conjure fright in us. When paddling on the river you must face the fact that you will run into them from time to time. You are in their home using their neighborhood so knowing how to stay safe means knowing more about them. This is the first part in what will become a series of articles dedicated to your education on snakes. In the future articles you will learn how to co-exist with these creatures peacefully, understand their actions, and plan for safe outcomes due to interactions from misunderstandings. Be sure to subscribe to my Follow Me On -> Instagram or Follow Me On -> Facebook page to see the next in the series and all my upcoming posts. With that introduction out of the way let’s jump right into correcting or confirming the myths.
MYTH 1 – All Snakes Are Bad
I understand the reasoning and the laziness behind this because it is always easier to apply a stereotype and act one way in all cases. In the case of snakes it is usually met with a KILL ALL SNAKES mandate and I too have been guilty of this in the past. According to the World Health Organization there are over 3000 species of snakes and of those only 600 are venomous [Source – World Health Organization]. They also add that of those 600 that 200 of the venomous snakes are medially important. Snakes are beneficial to humans because they consume animals we often consider to be pests such as rats and mice. Yes, I know a cat can too but when a cat kills them they often leave a carcass to cleanup while the snake slithers off to digest their dinner.
Killing that snake hiding in your garden may cost you that crop of corn or patch of pumpkins by allowing nature an imbalance which will have a snowball effect year after year because those pests become overfed, multiply, and their offspring do the same until the balance is paid for by you no longer planting those crops that they consume. Then the pests pack up and move to your neighbors and if the same cycle persists they can come back to you once your neighbor follows suit while you now think it is safe. The cycle has now become a bigger cycle with even more pests. This is why humanity needs to strike a balance with nature by knowledge and understanding that as Newton put it “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” Now let’s assume you do have a venomous snake hiding in your garden then simply relocating it can be done and there are usually local agencies to assist in that process such as Animal Control or the Humane Society. Should your municipal government not be suited for this there are often private agencies that can assist and some products such as live traps you can use to relocate them safely.
MYTH 2 – Snakes chasing humans
Often times snakes just happen to be on the same path as the human and going the same direction not yet realizing that a human is close. Knowing that snakes pursue prey they can consume means that you also may be aware of the snake (because of your fear built in) but not seeing the prey it is after. Now consider that as you progress forward you are forcing the prey animal to also move forward. The snake is locked onto the prey animal and not you so it continues to pursue causing you to feel like you are being chased when more directly you are the “monkey in the middle”.
You may also have came upon the snake while it was resting and startled it. Now let’s imagine you are asleep and the fire alarm rings in your room. Your first instinct is to get out and so is the snakes. They may have been asleep and startled then panicked with their senses not yet being fully online and you both being frightened of each other happen to be running the same direction.
In any case if the snake is coming right towards you then simply change direction to the right or left and allow it to continue on its way.
MYTH 3 – All Snakes are poisonous
Poison and venom are often confused. Poison defines any substance that can cause sickness or death which covers anything from natural toxins to chemicals. Venom is a poisonous substance secreted by animals to kill prey or defend themselves. So it is true that all venomous snakes are poisonous but not all snakes are venomous. It is also true that all snakes can bite and that bite will hurt but if they are not venomous you will walk away with nothing but pain from the bite wound.
MYTH 4 – Snakes can’t bite underwater
While I would love to say this one is true it is in fact FALSE! Snakes can bite underwater as easy as you can. If they are venomous it still injects almost as effectively as well so do not use the water as a protective source between you and a snake ever. To make it worse snakes can move faster in water than you can so do not go into the water to avoid a snake.
MYTH 5 – Suck the venom out
This last myth shocked me when I found out the facts of it a few years ago. You see I am always the guy with the first aid gear for almost any situation and always carried the snake bite kits that included a sucker apparatus, sewing to stitch the wound, and a tourniquet to prevent the venom from spreading. It was eye opening when I learned that this kit was not only useless but may cause more harm than good. You see when a venomous snake bites it engorges its poison into the tissue and blood where the bite happens. Sucking the venom out will only mean you spread it into your mouth or the apparatus you use to try to remove it with. Then applying a tourniquet will only cause the body to not dilute the venom causing more shock at the bite site. Proper first aid for a snake bite is CALL 911 or the Emergency Services in your area and get help on the way as fast as possible. Then clean the wound, apply a bandage to help prevent infection, and applying a compression bandage to the limb that was bitten. Then immobilize the limb with a splint and where possible try to get the limb above the heart. Moving the person if other options are possible is a bad idea as they need to remain as still as possible to delay the spread of the venom via the blood stream as much as possible but if moving out of a remote area is the only possible way to reach help then do it.
Snakes are as much afraid of you as you are of them. We are both dangerous to each other and knowing how to deescalate a snake encounter is key to both of you walking away from it safely. The snake is an animal we cannot reason with you it is up to you to be the master of the situation. Understanding their mindset will help you in this task. When a snake is confronted they make one of two choices, run or fight. What you do next is based on their choice. If they run leave them be but note where they go and warn anyone in their path to steer clear. If they decide to fight then you need to run outside of their striking distance and alert anyone in the area of the situation. Put anything you have between you and them to prevent being bit and let them have their space. Remember you are in their home so running them off for them is no more fun for them than it would be for you to be ran out of your house. If you are in a domestic setting then contacting someone with authority and experience handling them can be used to re-home them or if they are in an area they cannot harm anyone and are not venomous leave them be and enjoy the free pest removal service they provide. Additionally in a domestic setting if you wish to limit snakes being present work to make the environment less inviting to them with shorter grass, snake fences, and keeping pests out of the yard. In a wilderness or domestic setting always be prepared for the worse case scenario of encountering the most venomous snake in your area with items such as splints, compression bandages, antiseptic ointment, and wound bandages. Lastly, your chances of surviving a venomous snake bite double by always having a friend with you so that the one who was not bitten can get the other to safety.