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Health and Fitness News

Snake Smarts

What do you do if you encounter a snake?

For millions of people across the globe, just mentioning snakes strikes fear in their hearts. They’re sneaky, slithery, and unpredictable creatures that are misunderstood by many. Along with spiders and sharks, snakes top many people’s lists of scary animals. Most are harmless, but others are deadly poisonous and should be avoided at all costs. However hard you try to avoid them, you may encounter a snake while hiking in the woods, walking along a path, or even working in your yard.

What should you do if you see a snake? How can you tell if it’s poisonous? Should you kill the snake or let it go free? Keep reading to know how to keep you and your family safe from dangerous snakes.

Identifying Snakes

Before venturing into the great outdoors, it’s helpful to research what snakes live in the area. Taking along a field guide may help you be more confident about any snake you may come across. In the United States, there are four species of venomous snakes—copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and water moccasins.

There is no foolproof way to identify whether a snake is poisonous. In general, venomous snakes have triangular heads and eye pupils that have slits. The exception to this (in the United States) is the coral snake. Colored red, yellow, and black, the coral snake has a rounded head and unfortunately, is the most deadly of American snakes. Rattlesnakes have the telltale rattle on the end of their tails, but other snakes have been known to mimic a rattling sound as well.

Avoiding Snakes

As you’re outdoors, stay aware of your surroundings. Walk only on trails and watch where you step. Snakes like to hide out under big rocks, along creek banks, in tall grasses, and in piles of sticks so use caution in these areas. When hiking through snake habits you’d be smart to wear high-topped boots in case of a bite. And be sure to securely zip up your tent when camping to keep slithery critters out.

Keep in mind that snakes are cold-blooded creatures that gather warmth and energy from sunlight. Therefore, you’re more likely to find them in sunny spots in the morning or evening. During the heat of the day, however, they hide from the sun.

Encountering a Snake

There’s always a chance you’ll come across a snake if you’re in its habitat. Remember, it may be hard to imagine, but the snake is more scared of you than you are of it. Some snakes may slither off or play dead, but if it coils, rattles, or wriggles around, this indicates the snake feels threatened and is poised to defend itself.

The best thing to do when you see a snake is remain calm. When a snake is lying still, slowly back away. Never try to touch the snake, as doing so—whether to move or kill the snake—increases your risk of getting bit.

Most snakes can only strike at half its length. This means that if a snake is four feet long, you’re generally safe if you walk around it at least two feet away.

Keeping away an extra foot or two will ensure your safety. Before a snake strikes, it usually gives warning signs such as lifting its head and sticking its tongue out. Some will coil, shake their tails, or make a hissing noise. Don’t make any sudden movements if a snake is about to strike. Rather, move away slowly.

In most parts of the United States, it’s illegal to kill a snake unless it’s poisonous and a threat. Otherwise harmless snakes should be left alone since they are an important part of the ecosystem and a great way to keep the rodent population from taking over.


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