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Author Topic: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States  (Read 23653 times)

ryanm

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Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« on: September 02, 2008, 01:46:27 AM »

Venomous Snakes of the United States

NOTE: All of this information is for North America, and more specifically the United States. If you live in South America, Africa, southeast Asia, or Australia, New Zealand, or any of the islands in that area, you need a whole different guide, because getting bit by a snake in those places could kill you in a matter of minutes. If you have native Gaboon or rhino vipers, cobras, fer de lance, mambas, etc, you have a whole different set of worries about snakes than here in the US. And frankly, if I lived in a place where I might run into a 12 foot angry cobra during an airsoft game, I might consider an indoor hobby. :P

All of this info is easy to find on the web if you know where to look, but if you have specific questions about snakes in your area, feel free to PM or ask. A good piece of gear to have on your airsoft field is a field guide to the local reptile species. You can usually find them for under $20 on Amazon, with full color pictures of the local venomous species. Just search for "field guide to reptiles" plus your state or region name, and you should find a number of illustrated guides. For Texans, try the Texas Monthly Field Guide series, they're up to date and have great photos.

All photos provided are either my own IP, or are linked from Wikipedia, where they are available for free distribution under the creative commons license. (IOW, I'm not violating anyone's copyright)

If you have suggestions for this guide, questions, or corrections, just post them to this thread.

thanks,
ryanm


My Qualifications
This is an area where I can actually add some expertise. I breed snakes as a hobby, and have spent more than a decade studying them. While I don't have a degree on the subject, I have performed minor invasive surgery on them, prescribed and administered antibiotics and steroids to them, and handle them on a daily basis. I actually know more about snakes than the vet I take my snakes to, because I've studied them specifically and deal with them daily, and he mostly deals with mammals. But he knows more about drugs like steroids and antibiotics, and how they are metabolized and other such useful stuff, so I still need a vet. I'm also on the call list for the local animal control for when larger or unknown species are called in as pests.

This is one of mine, on a clutch of eggs a in May of 08. She's a 10 foot, 14lb Coastal Carpet Python from Australia.


First, just something that irks me: snakes are not poisonous, they are venomous. Poison is ingested, venom is injected. Snakes, spiders, scorpions, etc, are all venomous, not poisonous. It's one of those things that bothers me the way calling a magazine a clip bothers some people here.  ;)

Second, there are only about 5-10 snake bite deaths a year in the US, compared to over 42,000 deaths by car accident, and over 7,500 homicides by firearms, and is approximately the same as the number of deaths caused by being struck by lightning in the US. There are many, many more bites than this, but unless you just ignore it, or unless you have some other condition that may cause you to die from the shock or an allergic reaction, you are very unlikely to die from a snake envenomation. So with that in mind, if you get bit by a snake, try not to think of it as life and death, and think of it as a serious emerrgency, like a bad cut or a broken bone: something that needs to be dealt with rapidly, but generally not deadly.


Some Things You Should Know

The Cost Of Getting Bit
There are a number of reasons why you don't want to get bit by a venomous snake, not the least of which is that it is extremely painful. While a copperhead bite won't kill you, it will make you incredibly sick, including intense vomiting, diarrea, nausia, stomach pain, pain/swelling/infection at the site of the bite, and non-stop headaches that feel like your head is splitting open, and it can go on for weeks. You won't die, but you'll wish you would just die and get it over with. Plus, the average cost for treatment of a copperhead bite is about $15,000, so you'd better have insurance. And that's the cheapest and least painful snake to get bit by. A water moccasin or rattlesnake bite costs $15,000 and up for the CroFab alone, not counting the hospital stay and the reconstructive surgery required to repair the damage done to the tissue by the cytotoxins. CroFab is Crotalidine antivenin treatment serum, and the standard treatment regimen involves 20+ vials of CroFab at $750 each over a 24 hour period. Do the math. And then there's the reconstructive surgery.

I'm not going to post them here because they are extremely graphic, but if you would like to see what you may go through if you get bit on the hand by a rattlesnake, look here:

WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PICTURES OF SURGERY!
http://www.rattlesnakebite.org/rattlesnakepics.htm

Think about those pictures before you mess with a snake in the woods. For a text description, if you have a weak stomach, they essentially have to lay your arm open, from wrist to armpit, open the affected veins, and scrape the dead tissue out of the veins and the muscle with a blade. You will be permanently scarred. People lose fingers and toes. Messing with venomous snakes in the wild is not a joke.

Handling Wild Snakes

JUST DON'T! As an experienced hobbyist, I do handle snakes in the wild. But don't take that the wrong way, I do not free handle unidentified species, nor do I free handle known venomous species. I don't care who you've seen on tv or in person handling rattlesnakes with their bare hands, they're stupid. That's not balls, they aren't a daredevil, they're just plain, old stupid. Evil Kinevil understood the physics behind every jump. His weight plus the bikes weight times acceleration, hitting the ramp at a certain speed, with a given angle of elevation give a predictable flight path, etc. That's a daredevil; he had control over every aspect of the jump. Handling a venomous snake is not, because you have no control over what the snake will do. I use a four foot long steel hook to handle snakes in the wild, which keeps me out of striking range. If I'm sure of the species and its body language is not aggressive, I'll pick up harmless snakes with my bare hands. But even non-venomous snake bites can cause nasty infections, so just don't do it.


Size Doesn't Matter

A small snake is no less a threat than a big one. Often, baby snakes are more dangerous than adults for several reasons. For one, they are less experienced at judging threats, so they may see you simply walking by as a threat, where an adult is more likely to hide and let you pass. Two, they are less experienced at envenomating prey, so they generally give you their full payload on the first strike. Adult snakes will regulate how much venom they inject, because venom is expensive in biological terms. It requires time and energy to produce more venom, so if they can get rid of you using only a small amount of venom and have some left over for securing a meal, they will. Babies don't don't that, they give you the full shot every time. Three, babies seem like less of a threat. You are less scared of a tiny snake than a big one, thinking "what is that little thing going to do?", but in truth, that little thing is going to cause you weeks of agony, at the very least, if you mess with it.

Venom Types

Neurotoxins destroy nerves. They break the neural pathways that allow messages to pass from your brain and central nervous system to other parts of the body. Systems that stop receiving communication from your CNS stop working. Neurotoxins can paralyze you. They can cause your lungs to stop working and your heart to stop beating. They can cause permanent nerve damage in your limbs. In prey-sized animals, neurotoxic venom stops their heart and breathing in seconds to minutes. In human-sized animals and larger, it can take hours to days to do the same, if your body can't overcome the effects of the venom.

Cytotoxins destroy tissue. Hemotoxins are a type of cytotoxin that specifically destroy soft tissue, such as blood cells, skin, veins, muscle, etc. Stronger cytotoxins will eat through bone and hard tissue, slower, but a lot like the acid blood of certain movie aliens. It is thought that the cytotoxins in rattlesnake venom act like a sort of predigestion for the snake, digesting the prey animal from the inside out, before they are even swallowed. A drop of rattlesnake venom left sitting on your arm will cause irritation, and eventually will open a hole in your arm that will eat straight into the muscle under your skin, a lot like a brown recluse bite.

First Response

If you see a snake

DO:
Stop.
Move slowly away.
Warn people where it is.

DO NOT:
Poke at it.
Try to kill it with a stick or shovel or rake.
Try to pick it up or move it.

Leave snakes alone, and they'll leave you alone. They don't want to tangle with you, you are a massive predator that is 150 times their size, and is almost certain to kill them in a fight. They don't want to bite you. Their venom is for killing prey, which you are not, and for defending themselves in life or death situations. Absolutely every strike from a snake is either to kill prey, or because they fear for their life. If the danger was anything less than life threatening, they would not strike. Strinking is dangerous for snakes for many reasons. One, which you should know as airsofters, is that it requires them to get close enough for counterattack, which is risking injury or death. Striking also risks breaking teeth, and a venomous snake without fangs cannot eat, which is a death sentence. From the snake's perspective, every strike is risking their life. So consider that, when you see a snake reared back and threatening to strike. While you are weighing whether you can catch it or kill it without getting hurt, they are weighing whether or not they will survive the next 60 seconds, which is what makes them dangerous. If you back away and give them the opportunity to escape, they will take it almost every single time. Rare exceptions are if you are near a nest with eggs in it, a female that is in her breeding cycle, freshly killed prey, or some other reason for them to be territorial, and they still will not blatantly attack you, they will let you leave if you try to leave. They're not hurting you, give them the opportunity to escape, and both of you walk (or slither) away unscathed.


If you get bit

There are four rules when dealing with venomous snakebites, follow these immediately no matter what kind of snake bite it is:

1. Call for help. Get someone's attention and let them know you've been bitten. Someone should call 911 immediately and tell them you've been bitten, they will direct you to the nearest place to get treatment, which may or may not be a hospital. If you are out in the middle of nowhere, often a vet is the nearest place, because dogs and horses get bit more often than people do, so country vets usually stock antivenom/antivenin for local species, and they are perfectly capable of treating you. The saying with snakes, although it is usually applied to cytotoxic or hemotoxic venom, is "Time is tissue". The more time passes before treatment, the more tissue is damaged by the venom, so immediate attention is critical.

2. DO NOT cut open the bite and try to suck the venom out, it causes more damage than it fixes, and depending on the snake and venom, you may be envenomating your lips and gums as well. DO NOT put a tourniquet on the limb, again, you'll cause more problems than you'll fix. Apply pressure to stop bleeding only if it continues for several minutes after the bite. The initial bleeding will help to flush some of the venom out, so let it bleed for a few minutes before trying to stop it. You won't bleed out from a couple tiny punctures. Do not do anything else to the wound, wait for qualified medical help. Putting hydrogen peroxide or iodine on the wound is a waste of time, because the bacteria that may or may not have gotten into the wound are the least of your worries if the snake was venomous.

It is useful, however, to observe the wound. Venomous snake bites will have two obviously larger tooth marks on the top and towrds the front. If all the tooth marks are the same size, chances are, you were bit by a harmless snake. Venomous snakes try not to hook you with their other teeth when striking defensively, so often a venomous strike will only have two tooth marks on the top. Non-venomous snakes leave a row of evenly sized, evenly spaced tooth marks when they bite.

3. Stay calm and move steadily and deliberately towards a vehicle, where you should stay as still and calm as possible while someone takes you to get treatment. Running and freaking out causes your heart to race, and if the venom is in your bloodstream, you're only speeding up the rate that the venom moves through your body. I know that's easier said than done, from direct experience, but the calmer you can stay, the less damage is caused by the venom.

4. Try to remember as much about the appearance and location of the snake as possible while waiting to get medical attention. Where was the snake? Near water, in a tree, under a pile of rocks? All of these are clues to what kind of snake it was. What was the snake's overall color? Black, brown, red, yellow, etc. Was there a discernible pattern on it? Checkers, diamonds, stripes, etc. And did it have a rattle? The more you can tell them about the snake, the faster they can take care of you. Giving the wrong antivenom can actually be worse than giving you none at all.

If you can kill the snake without getting envenomated again, or without someone else getting envenomated, kill it. Take it with you to the hospital, it will help to take the guesswork out of treatment. As someone who keeps snakes as pets, I don't condone killing snakes without good reason, but when human life or limb can be saved by killing a snake, crush that suckers head with a rock and take it with you. Be very careful transporting a dead venomous snake, they can still envenomate you. Put it in tupperware if possible, or some kind of bag if not, and be careful with it.

I'd recommend taking a picture with a camera or phone, but the chances that someone has a camera ready at the time are slim. If you can, though, photos or video of the snake are just as good as the snake itself, and are better in the fact that you don't have to come into contact with the animal again. If someone can pin it down with a long stick so you can takle pictures, that would be best. If no camera is readily available and the snake gets away, try to remember as much detail about it as possible.


Types Of Snakes

Non-venomous Snakes
Most of the snakes you'll see in the wild are not only harmless, but are beneficial members of the local ecosystem. Most of the snakes in the US eat rodents, frogs and toads, and other small animals that most people think of as pests. They are also prey to larger birds and mammals, like owls and racoons. In both of these roles, they are an important, balancing part of the local ecosystem, and should not be killed just because they are a snake. Not only will their bites not harm you, they honestly don't hurt anywhere near as much as, for example a fire ant bite. But no one runs screaming from a fire ant, do they? The average snake in the US is considered harmles because even if they do bite you, they do less damage than the average house-cat does when it play-bites or scratches you. Seriously. More people are seriously injured by chihuahuas every year than by all the snakes bites in the US combined. On top of that, all snakes are terrified of you. To them, you are an enormous predator. They see you the way you would see, for example a tiger the size of an elephant: they want nothing to do with you. Almost 100% of the time they will run if they can, because tangling with a human is a lose-lose situation for them. So if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.

To me, snakes are perfect pets. First, they are seriously low maintenance. I feed my adults once every 2 weeks, and change their water dish once a week. Because they only eat every 2 weeks, that also means they only crap every 2 weeks. So once a week I spend 10 minutes filling water bowls and spot-cleaning their cages, and twice a month I throw a rat in there for them to eat. That's it. They are space efficient, mine are in stacked cages 4 tall, so I keep my 40 or so in a 3'x10' space. They are easier and less expensive to feed than you think. I buy frozen rats online, so I don't even have to deal with prey: they show up by UPS packed in dry ice like a box of steaks, and I keep them in the freezer and thaw them when I need to feed. My snakes are calm and docile, and none of them have even tried to bite me in years. This is how dangerous they are:

My 7 year old daughter handling a 6 foot Jungle Carpet Python


Does she look scared? The thing is, most people have an irrational fear of snakes. It is irrational because the average person really has nothing to fear from snakes. Fear of snakes is a long ingrained, evolutionary response that helped mammals come out as the top tier predators. It hasn't been a necessary response since we developed higher reasoning, though, and we are entirely capable of out-thinking snakes. Honestly, they aren't that smart. Highly efficient predators, but not that smart in terms of planning and reasoning. The only reason people still get bit is because snakes are so good at camoflague. But you practically have to step on them or intentionally irritate them to get bit in the field. Snakes, by and large, are harmless. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.



Venomous Snakes
There are four kinds of venomous snakes in North America: coral snakes, water moccasins, copperheads, and rattlesnakes, and we have all four of them in Texas. I've come in direct contact with all four of them in the wild, and know how to tell them apart, and how to deal with them if I encounter them. I'll describe each of them below.

Coral Snake

Distribution, Size, and Appearance



In southern United States, these are small (most commonly under 2 feet in length) snakes whose coloration is red, yellow, and black bands. There are a couple dozen coral mimics in the southern US, including species of corn snakes (sometimes called chicken snakes), king snakes, and milk snakes, to name a few. They all can have similar red, yellow, and black banding, but are completely harmless. The rhyme for telling which is which, in case you haven't heard it, is "Red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on black, venom lack." In other words, if the red bands are touching the yellow bands, it is a coral snake. If the red bands touch the black bands, it is a mimic. When in doubt, call 911 and let them determine if it was a coral or not.

Venom/Danger

This snake has the most dangerous venom of all North American snakes, a powerful neurotoxin that, injected with a full payload, can kill you in just a few hours. The coral is also the least likely snake to bite you. For one, they are rear-fanged, which means that they would have great difficulty envenomating a human. They are small, and have small mouths, and other than the tips of your fingers or toes, they would have a very difficult time getting enough of any human body part into their mouths far enough to get their fangs into you. Once they do get their fangs into prey, they have to use a chewing action to push the venom out of the glands and into their prey, which means a single, fast strike generally does not cause envenomation at all. Believe me, you'd notice a snake chewing on your toe.  :P

Coral snakes are also the shyest of the venomous North American species (read: absolutely least aggressive). You should actually count yourself lucky if you even see one in the wild, because I've spent many days out in the field looking for wild snakes, and I've only seen them in the wild twice. Even if you saw one, the most likely way you would see it is as it is fleeing from you, because they are terrified of humans. We're so big, in comparison to their body size, that their instinct is to flee rather than engage us, because even if they manage to envenomate us, we would still be able to kill them before their venom incapacitated us, so engaging us is a lose-lose situation for a coral, and they know it. You literally have to catch one, pick it up bare handed, and be intentionally irritating it to get bit. So don't do that, and you have nothing to fear from coral snakes. The average number of envenomations by coral snakes in the US is 0 per year. Occasionally people do get bit, but the vast majority of the time, it is zookeepers and hobbyists, who are handling captive specimens.



Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth)

Distribution, Size, and Appearance



Water moccasins are also banded, with a tan or brown base color with dark-to-reddish brown or bands. They are found throughout the south-eastern US, as far north as Virginia, and as far west as western Texas, and everywhere in between. They are often "dirty" or "muddy" looking, due to regional color variations and the phase of shed they are in, so the banding is not always noticable. The picture above is typical looking, but they may be dark brown to black in appearance. These are highly aggressive snakes that live in or near fresh water ponds, lakes, or streams. There are many cottonmouth mimics, including the entire genus Nerodia, who look very similar and also are found mostly in or near water. Again, if you get bit, call for help and let them determine whether it was a mimic or a water moccasin.

Venom/Danger

These are territorial and aggressive snakes, so the danger of getting bit if you encounter one is higher than any other North American species. Fisherman (including myself) report them crawling right into their boats to get at caught fish, and they are the only species of snake that I know of that will actually chase a human, although only for a very short distance. Therir venom is a powerful hemotoxin/cytotoxin, which will cause immediate swelling and necrosis at the site of the bite, but water moccasin envenomation, while very painful, is highly unlikely to kill you unless you ignore it. They are more toxic than a copperhead, but less toxic than a rattlesnake.



Copperhead

Distribution, Size, and Appearance



Copperheads are tan or brown with obvious bands of brown or copper (or occasionally greenish-brown), found in most of the southern and eastern US, as far north as Delaware and New York, and as far east as Texas. They will always avoid humans if possible, so if you are making noise in the woods, they will move away from you if they can before you ever see them. However, if you happen upon one, they are known to freeze and sit very still, so many envenomations occur because peeople fail to see them, camoflaged among the leaves, and accidentally step on them. They will generally not strike unless you physically touch them in some way or make a deliberate attempt to grab or poke at them.

Venom/Danger

This is the least toxic of the North American venomous species, although you still don't want to get bit. Even if ignored, most adults will survive a copperhead bite, showing sickness and swelling for a few weeks and then getting over it. That doesn't mean don't see a doctor, because people still die from copperhead bites, so treat any snake bite as an emergency. Their venom is hemotoxic, and will destroy tissue and blood cells at the site of the bite and will cause scarring, so the faster you get treatment, the better off you will be. People do lose fingers and tos due to necrosis and swelling.



Rattlesnake

Distribution, Size, and Appearance



The ratttlesnake can be small (2 feet) to large (8 feet) in size, and generally has a tan or brown body with  a darker brown pattern in bands, spots, or diamonds. The one pictured above is a western diamondback, common to the dryer parts of the south (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, etc) One thing all species have in common is the rattle. If it has a rattle, it's a rattlesnake. However, that's not necessarily all you need to know if you get bit by one. Many times geographic location is enough to identify which subspecies it was, but often subspecies have overlapping ranges and tend to intergrade (breed between subspecies), causing their venom to be a new, and sometimes unidentified, cocktail of toxins. Southern California has several of the most dangerous subspecies in overlapping ranges. So your location, the overall color, the shape of the pattern on them, tail color, body size, and body shape are all indicators of the subspecies. I won't go through them all, but those are the things EMS will ask you when you call.

There are several mimics, such as hognose snakes, who puff up their heads into a viper shape and tap their tails in the ground to imitate a rattle, but only rattlesnakes have a rattle.

Venom/Danger

Rattlers are probably the most dangerous in realistic terms. Unlike the coral, these guys will bite you, and often are not afraid of you. They will usually avoid people and will almost always rattle well before you are within striking distance, but they are common and are large enough with a high enough venom payload to pose a threat. Their venom may contain any mixture of neurotoxins and  hemotoxins/cytotoxins, and the specific mixture is what EMS will want to base their treatment on, which is why subspecies is important. The hemotoxic/cytotoxic element of the venom causes necrosis and massive swelling at the bite site and anywhere the venom spreads to, while the neurotoxic qualities may cause pulmonary and/or coronary distress and sometimes rapid failure of one or both systems. You do not want to get bit by a rattlesnake. While not many people die of snake bites each year, the majority who do die, die from rattlesnake bites. Even if you don't die, you may end up with massive scarring from the bite location towards your heart. A bite on the hand or foot may often result in the loss of fingers or toes.

A brief list of subspecies you're likely to see

Western Diamondback (pictured above) - AK, CA, OK, TX, NM, AZ, and NV.

Eastern Diamonback - NC, south to FL, and west through MS and LA.


Sidewinder - CA, NV, UT, and AZ.


Timber Rattler - Maine to Florida on the east coast, even into Canada, west as far as Texas.


Northern Pacific - (Great shot of mating!) WA, OR, ID, CA, NV, UT, AZ, and NM


Mojave -CA, NV, UT, AZ, NM, TX


Prarie or Plains Rattler - ID, MO, ND, SD, WY, NB, CO, KS, OK, TX, NM, AZ


This is far from all of them, but these are the ones you're most likely to see. As you can see from the states mentioned with each subspecies, rattlesnakles are everywhere in North America. This is the one to watch out for.

EDIT: 7-25-09 Additions

I've recently received several PMs with questions about this thread, so I thought I should post some of the more useful information in here.

----- SVT Cobra quoted from PM by permission. -----

Quote from: SVT Cobra
I do have a question though, often I have seen these "snake bite" kits sold at Walmarts, hunting stores, sporting stores etc etc for about $20 or so and they claim that they help in treating a snake bite while you wait to get medical treatment. I was wondering what your opinion on those kits are?

I have been told by some of the airsofters I play with that they are pretty much worthless and are a waste of money. However, I wanted the opinion from an expert. It seems like a good idea to have some sort of kit on hand for airsoft since I play in Arizona and the most common snake I have seen is a Diamond Back Rattle Snake.

Useless. They've shown now that suction on the wound does nothing unless it is applied within 1-2 seconds of the bite, which is almost impossible since the person who was bit is usually still freaking out at that point and hasn't even told anyone else that they've been bit yet. Even when applied within seconds, it does very little. Rattlesnakes don't inject enough venom to have any substantial amount of it sucked out. Cutting and suction at the wound causes damage but doesn't actually fix anything. And if you did suck on the wound and manage to get some venom out, all you've done is envenomate your mouth. Rattlesnake venom is a haemotoxin, which dissolves soft tissue. Needless to say, you don't want it in your mouth.

In most states it is illegal to carry antivenom unless you are EMS or otherwise approved to prescribe it. Anything other than antivenom is useless against venom (and the wrong antivenom is worse than none at all). The best thing you can do if you get bit is remain calm, which may also be the hardest thing to do, and get to qualified medical care as soon as possible.

If you want to be prepared for snakes in the woods, get a snake hook so that you can deal with them from a safe distance.

(random image I found on the web)


This is a good brand, you can get a standard hook for about $30.
http://tongs.com/standardhook.aspx

You might find one cheaper, but for dealing with rattlers you want something at least 30 inches long, longer if possible. You might also check out the Gentle Giant tongs on that site. They're more expensive, but allow you to actually restrain the snake, which is easier if you don't have any experience with hooking snakes. Don't try to pick them up with the hook (put a 4lb weight on the end of a 3 foot stick and try to hold it out in front of you, it's nearly impossible, especially if the weight is wiggling around), just use it to encourage them to move in the direction you want them to go.

Another useful piece of equipment is a field guide for reptiles in your state. An up to date field guide should have good color photos of all the venomous species you are likely to find, including each of the different rattlesnake species you might see. This will help you didentify venomous from harmless snakes, as well as the exact species of rattler if someone were to get bit.

This seems like a pretty good field guide for Arizona: http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Amphibians-Reptiles-Arizona/dp/B000KKMWWE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248365073&sr=8-1
To find that book I googled "reptile field guide arizona" and read a couple reviews.

--------------------

I'll add more as I get additional questions that weren't covered in the original post.

ryanm
« Last Edit: July 25, 2009, 09:53:21 PM by ryanm »
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koreaneric23

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2008, 08:16:36 AM »

Wow thanks! I tend to avoid snakes all together because they somehow scare me but this guide really helped me with the do's and the dont's although most were obvious. And great job on the venom types! Wish somehow had a guide on spiders a while back.
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ryanm

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2008, 10:43:50 AM »

Wow thanks! I tend to avoid snakes all together because they somehow scare me
Most people are scared of snakes, but it is mostly because of inexperience with them, and really shamelessly poor propaganda, like the movies Anaconda and Snakes on a Plane. Don't get me started on those steaming piles of crap. :P

Quote
but this guide really helped me with the do's and the dont's although most were obvious. And great job on the venom types! Wish somehow had a guide on spiders a while back.
You would think they were obvious, but would you believe that that majority of the rattlesnake bites last year were due to people trying to pick them up or handle them in some way? It's actually true, most of the rattlesnake envomations last year were preceded by the phrase "Hold my beer, watch this!".  ::)

The main thing I want to get across in this guide is that by and large, snakes are harmless and should be left alone, but if you mess with them, you just might find yourself in a really, really bad situation. The best way to avoid that is to simply leave them alone. Most of the time you won't even see them in the wild unless you are looking for them, and that's just how it should be.

I hate bugs, so I can't help you with spiders. I mean, bugs are cool looking and all, but anything with more than 4 legs gives me the creeps (centipedes? forget about it...). How's that for an irrational fear? :P

ryanm

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2008, 11:03:59 AM »

Great Guide thanks! I like snakes alright, I'm not scared of them or anything, However I tend to freak out if a spider gets on me LOL.

Cute kid BTW.
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unholyevil

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2008, 01:05:10 PM »

Good guide. 

Ryanm, I have been using this saying for a while now: "red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of jack."  How valid is it in determing if it is venomous or not by it's colors.  Catchy little line ain't it?
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2008, 03:45:46 PM »

This was my announcement at a  game I was involved in this past saturday:

Quote
RATTLESNAKE!!!!!

GAME STOP!!! GAME STOP!!!! ALL TEAMS, GAME STOP!!!

SNIPER'S ROCK IS NOW CLOSED, I REPEAT SNIPER'S ROCK IS NOW CLOSED DUE TO RATTLESNAKE ... DOES EVERYONE COPY?

DELTA TEAM, DO YOU COPY? SNIPER'S ROCK IS CLOSED DUE TO RATTLESNAKE.

BRAVO TEAM, DO YOU COPY? SNIPER'S ROCK IS CLOSED DUE TO RATTLESNAKE.

I REPEAT, SNIPER'S ROCK IS CLOSED DUE TO RATTLESNAKE.

We left it alone. One of our rules is not to shoot any wildlife or animals.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2008, 09:12:39 PM »

Good guide. 

Ryanm, I have been using this saying for a while now: "red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of jack."  How valid is it in determing if it is venomous or not by it's colors.  Catchy little line ain't it?
Heard that before too. I fortunately have not had to use it before, but I've heard it. I too am interested, because I might get to play down south a little bit.

We left it alone. One of our rules is not to shoot any wildlife or animals.
Same. Very good rule to follow. Nice handling of the situation.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2008, 09:24:10 PM »

My dad one day just recited that to me, a long time ago...

Shooting wildlife in general is stupid.  You think you are shooting a squirrel; but when that squirrel turns out to be a hungry wolf, well you get the idea.

Ryanm, you might want to add the usual hangouts for these snakes.  Where they like to be, possible things they might be under, etc.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2008, 11:15:07 PM »

Great guide Ryan, covered pretty much everything you need to know. And those were some nasty pictures. :o
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2008, 11:28:45 PM »

"red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of jack."  How valid is it in determing if it is venomous or not by it's colors. 

That's exactly right, but only for coral snakes. This is a coral:



This is a harmless mimic (a mexican milk snake, whose range coincides with the corals):



You can see how they could easily be mistaken for one another. Note the difference in which colors border on which between the two. If red touches yellow, it's dangerous, if red touches black, it's harmless.

All the other venomous snakes in North America are various shades and patterns of brown, so I wouldn't want you to get the idea that just because it isn't red and yellow it isn't dangerous.

If you play around fresh water (lakes, ponds, streams, etc), you will run into both cottonmouths and harmless mimics that are extremely difficult to tell apart. Avoid them all.

If I'm looking for a copperhead in this part of Texas, I'll go find a large, grassy field, look for a piece of tin or plywood or something similar laying in the middle, and flip it over. Practically guaranteed to find one. In the woods, you'll find them in all the places snipers like to hide: under leaves near the base of trees, near fallen and rotting logs, and in dense brush.

If you are looking for rattlesnakes during the day, they are generally either hiding somewhere cool (if it's summer), or out basking on warm rocks (like RLBs sniper's rock, I would assume).

Copperheads, rattlers and cottonmouths are all more active from dusk until about midnight. That is prime hunting time, when it's dark enough to gain an advantage from their IR vision.

If you are a sniper, and you are dug in and laying low, and a snake approaches you, the best thing you can do is hold still and let it move on. If you jump or otherwise startle it, you are liable to get bit. If you hold still they will leave the area if you let them. Trust me, they know you are there, their sense of smell is about as good as a dogs, and their infra-red vision is excellent. You are entirely too large to be prey, so as long as you don't appear to pose a threat, they will ignore you the way people ignore cattle. They might pass right by you if you seem harmless. If you are noise and moving around, they will almost always run.

ryanm

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2008, 02:24:10 AM »

While not a snake, you might want to add Gila Monsters to the list as most people don't realize their is such a thing as a venomous lizard.  It's not all that uncommon to see them at games out here.



Admittedly it's too slow to bite you unless you pick it up or fall asleep but given peoples tendency to pick it up, it's worth mentioning.  Plus, they are protected by law here in AZ.

Good guide though.  A reptile shop here in town does a Show and Tell thing every year and bring a King Snake and teach the kids red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, friend of jack.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2008, 09:52:43 AM »

Honestly, though, my bigger worry with picking up wild gilas would be losing a finger, not the after-effects of the bite.  :P

Yep, gilas are way more dangerous than non-venomous snakes, and liable to cause way more immediate damage than even a venomous snake. Their venom is nowhere near as potent as rattlesnake venom, and like the coral, they have to chew to release it, but it's definitely a concern. They eat whole animals, bones and all, and crush them up in their jaws, and not just mice, if they find something larger, like a coyote that is already dead, they will bite off limbs and eat them, so they can crush bones that are quite thick. They also kill and eat venomous snakes, and larger predators, so human fingers are nothing at all to a gila. Oh, and they have a nasty cocktail of flesh-eating bacteria that often grows in their mouths due to their propensity for eating carrion, so there's another good reason not to get anywhere near the pointy end of a wild one.  ;)

I would recommend against approaching them, to say the least.

EDIT: Also, it turns out that we've found out recently that all varanids (lizards of the genus Varanidae varanus) have venom glands, which includes monitors, goannas, the komodo dragon, the gila, and the mexican beaded lizard.

ryanm
« Last Edit: September 04, 2008, 10:03:41 AM by ryanm »
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2008, 12:10:28 AM »

Ummmmm....

Was that supposed to be funny or something?  A Gila Monster is like under two feet long and only weighs a few pounds...
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2008, 06:30:36 AM »

lol ty for this info i repedatly looked around my chair ;)
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2008, 11:02:43 AM »

Ummmmm....

Was that supposed to be funny or something?  A Gila Monster is like under two feet long and only weighs a few pounds...

It's apparent from your tone that you've never seen a gila eat.  ;)

Their heads are about the size of your fist, and their mouths open very wide. They have very sharp, pointy teeth that tilt backwards into their mouths, which means when you pull away from their bite, you tear flesh and help them seperate the bit that is in their mouth from your body. They clamp on like pit bulls, and you cannot pry their jaws apart; the recommended way to get a large lizard to let go of something is to put an eyedropper of strong liquor in their mouths, they let go to get away from the taste.

Gilas can and will take off fingers or toes, and can give you a nasty bite on the arms or legs if you mess with them. Their venom isn't nearly as much of a concern as their teeth are. Believe me, a 2 foot lizard can do way more damage than any snake bite, at least until venom comes into play. I have pythons as large as 10 feet, and I'd take a bite from them any day over a 2 foot lizard bite.

Gila Skull


You are highly unlikely to see one, and it will very likely run away if you do, but if you pick a wild one up, expect to get bitten. Bites to the hands (the most likely place to get bit) can crush bones, cause serious lacerations, and will require treatment for their venom.

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2008, 05:16:53 AM »





Head the size of a fist is a bit of an exaggeration.  Nor is it that uncommon to see what, certainly not "highly unlikely".  More often than not, they don't do much of anything when they see you.  I wasn't arguing them being able to take off a finger, but stating they eat "whole animals" makes them sound like you are talking about something the size of a crocodile.

And as a matter of fact, yes, I have seen one eat.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2008, 12:06:30 PM »

Head the size of a fist is a bit of an exaggeration.

Depends on whose fist.  :P



Quote
Nor is it that uncommon to see what, certainly not "highly unlikely".  More often than not, they don't do much of anything when they see you.

If you are in Arizona or New Mexico and you play in the southern deserts, sure, you may see them fairly often. They aren't aggressive, but picking them up is generally a bad idea unless you know how to handle them. Same as picking up any snake. If you don't know what you're doing, you are pretty likely to get bit, and with big lizards, getting bit will cause a lot more immediate damage than getting bit by any snake you'll run into in the US.

Quote
I wasn't arguing them being able to take off a finger, but stating they eat "whole animals" makes them sound like you are talking about something the size of a crocodile.

Well, they do eat whole animals, but no, they don't eat whole boar or anything like that.  :P

If it came across that way, that's not what I intended. They do, however, eat carrion, and are fully capable of taking the legs or other large chunks off a boar, because their teeth are designed for crushing and tearing. They can crush large animal bones in their jaws. The whole animals they eat are generally mice, rats, small rabbits, other snakes and lizards, etc.

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2008, 05:30:30 PM »

OK, who cares who's fist is larger ... doesn't matter. Just post helpful intel.
- RLB
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2008, 03:46:37 AM »

If you are in Arizona or New Mexico and you play in the southern deserts, sure, you may see them fairly often. They aren't aggressive, but picking them up is generally a bad idea unless you know how to handle them. Same as picking up any snake. If you don't know what you're doing, you are pretty likely to get bit, and with big lizards, getting bit will cause a lot more immediate damage than getting bit by any snake you'll run into in the US.

Hence the reason I brought them up in the first place.  :)  Or are you trying to imply nobody airsofts in Arizona?  I've seen them at games out here 3 or 4 times and personally I find people are far less frightened of lizards than snakes which means much more likely to pick one up if they see it.  Plus they blend in very well with the terrain you usually see them in.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2008, 11:58:40 AM »

Hence the reason I brought them up in the first place.  :)  Or are you trying to imply nobody airsofts in Arizona?  I've seen them at games out here 3 or 4 times and personally I find people are far less frightened of lizards than snakes which means much more likely to pick one up if they see it.  Plus they blend in very well with the terrain you usually see them in.
Yeah, don't pick them up, you could lose a finger. The same areas will have lots of rattlers also, and those are defenitely dangerous. You're pretty safe from most other types of venomous snakes in the desert, although you might (very rarely) see a coral, and copperheads have been known to venture out into the edges of the desert where it borders on their native range.

Mexican beaded lizards are another venomous lizard, darker in color and larger than a gila, but otherwise similar-looking. Again, don't try to touch them, they will put a serious hurt on you.

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2011, 06:14:17 PM »

I just noticed this thread for the first time today. Who knew that there was more than one airsofter with a side interest in herpetology? Your post was excellently done. Really. I enjoyed it.

I do have four minor comments that I thought might be helpful...(1) Coral snakes are not rear-fanged. (2) I suggest removing the term "aggressive" from your description of the cottonmouth. Based on my experience, if you have not molested one, it is not going to bite you. Also, one of J. W. Gibbons' papers investigated this particular issue...let me know if you're interested in it. (3) Losing teeth (including fangs) is not a death sentence for venomous snakes. Snakes re-grow teeth. (4) You did not mention "dry bites" (unless I missed it). A significant number (25% and up) of bites by venomous snakes in the US do not involve envenomation.

Please do not take my comments as any form of negative criticism. Your work was well written, accurate, and interesting, and should prove very helpful to airsofters in the outdoors.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #21 on: May 05, 2011, 10:23:21 AM »

You're right, they're not rear-fanged. That's something people have been saying for decades. And I guess it just came out as I was typing that epically massive post.

Corals are elapids, which are, by definition, fixed, front-fanged. They also don't necessarily have to chew, if they're big enough. However, for the purposes of safety the point is the same: they're very shy and extremely unlikely to bite you, and most that you come across in Texas won't be big enough to give you a proper bite. The ones that live long enough to get big enough to bite anything but fingers and toes have long ago learned how to stay out of sight of people. Unless you're intentionally trying to catch one, your likelihood of being envenomated by one is extremely low. The average number of coral envenomations in the US per year is 0.

As for cottonmouths not being aggressive, I don't know where you fish, but they're highly aggressive around here. They will come on your boat and gape and threaten you to get you to abandon a stringer of fish. On land they will be territorial and literally chase you away from their hides. It may be mostly show, and they're not really going to bite you if you don't leave, but I'm not willing to take a chance. Lakeside in summer in Texas, they are highly aggressive. I've never kept them in captivity, so they may be relatively calm once they're used to the sight and smell of people.

Snakes do shed fangs, but having one broken or a new one lost is bad. Until their new tooth has come in they are defenseless and largely unable to hunt. It makes them a slow, weak target to the predators that prey on them. Again, the point is that it's a risk they generally aren't willing to take. I know that seems contradictory with the previous paragraph, but snakes don't think like we do, and a large predator  (humans) in in their territory is a threat.

Dry bites aren't relevant for this guide, IMO. Every bite should be treated like it's hot, to save tissue. Don't wait to see if it starts swelling before seeking medical attention. If you go to the hospital and it turns out to be a dry bite, count yourself lucky; you just saved ~$30k and potentially a weeks stay in the hospital followed by 6 months of rehab.

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2011, 12:05:57 AM »

I forgot about this guide.  I'm kind of glad someone rose it from the dead, since it does play out a lot of useful tips.


I work at a hospital, and I've got to be honest in the fact that I know of no hospital in the city of Louisville that has antidotes for any regional snake bite, including the cottonmouth.
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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #23 on: May 13, 2011, 09:10:48 AM »

The hospital will have a phone number, the people on the other end of that number will be able to tell you the nearest place to get antivenom for nearly any snake on the planet. Now, the nearest place could be anywhere from the vet 2 blocks away to central California, but they'll know where to find it, and common species should all be close enough to fly in within an hour.

There is almost certainly copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnake serum in a city the size of Louiville (Ky, I assume?), you just may have to get it from a vet. Animals get bit a lot more than people do. Most antivenom is made by injecting the venom into sheep or horses and then extracting the antibodies from their blood, so we can share antivenom with most mammals.

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Re: Airsofters Guide to Venomous Snakes of the United States
« Reply #24 on: May 13, 2011, 03:39:28 PM »

I've done unit secretary work in an ER, and I can tell you that our ER does not have a number to get any sort of antivenom.  This might have something to do with us being an urban hospital, however.  I know we don't keep lists for veterinarians on file.  I think if something like this were to come to our ER, we'd simply transfer you to a hospital that does have it.  We just can't call down to the vet's office and ask them to bring it up.


I'm not doubting that a hospital here in my city does -- I'd wager big bucks on University of Louisville having some, since they're the only regional trauma center in the state.  I'm just pointing out that knowing which hospital does have what you need is better, than running blind after getting bit.  EMS will also possibly be lost in the dark, too -- I've worked for them.  Once you get to an ER, it is illegal for them to tell you that they can't help you and to send you elsewhere without seeing you.
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