|Snakes are important members of the
natural world and make a significant contribution to the control of pests
such as rats, insects, and other snakes. Poisonous snakes, however, are
not desirable members of the human habitat. The risk of a poisonous snakebite
is lower than that of being struck by lightening and can be reduced further
Most poisonous snakes in the United States belong to
the pit viper group. The pit viper has pits on its head, vertical pupils,
a triangular head, slim neck, and a heavy body with a single row of scales
on the underside of the tail. The pit viper group includes the major categories
of copperhead and cottonmouth and two major categories of rattlesnake.
All pit vipers may vibrate their tail sections rapidly to make noise when
Cleaning up refuse and other hiding spots around buildings
Wearing heavy shoes and pants in wooded areas; and
Looking first before stepping or touching hidden areas
where snakes are likely to be resting or hiding.
The cottonmouth and copperhead categories are often
referred to as mocassins, but they are two distinct categories within the
pit viper group. Note: Click
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are many varieties of rattlesnakes that have pit viper characteristics
and a button on the tail (youngest snakes), plus two to four segments of
rattles for each year of age. The size range of rattlesnakes is 15 to 72
inches, with the record size held by a 96-inch Eastern Diamondback.
five varieties of copperhead snakes have pit viper characteristics and
bands or hourglass markings of brown, copper, or red on a tan body. The
20- to 36-inch snakes have regional differences in color and size; the
young have a bright-yellow tail tip. An unusually large copperhead was
recorded at 56 inches in length.
semiaquatic cottonmouth also has pit viper characteristics, but the adult
has a solid-colored upper body that is olive brown or black, and a lighter
underside. Although often difficult to distinguish from the nonpoisonous
water snake, a cottonmouth is usually more aggressive. While a water snake
will leave rapidly when threatened, the pit viper often raises its head
and confronts an enemy with a show of fangs inside a cotton-white mouth.
The size of the cottonmouth ranges from 30 to 48 inches, with a record
length of 74 inches.
coral snake is an exception to the other snakes of the United States, because
it has round pupils and an elliptical head, but it is quite poisonous.
While the pit viper venom reduces the amount of oxygen carried by a victim's
red blood cells, a coral snake has venom that rapidly affects the nervous
system. The small mouth of the coral snake has trouble grasping and biting
the larger human; however, the effect is more deadly than the pit viper
once a bite is accomplished!
|Flat triangular head
||Usually oval, elongated head
|Facial pit; vertical pupil
||No pit; round pupil
|Single row of scales under end of
||Double row of scales under end of
If You Are Bitten By A Snake
For assistance, call the Regional Poison
Control Center at (601) 354-7660.
If the snake is still in the area, do not attempt to
kill or catch it, unless it poses a danger to you or the victim. Try to
remember what it looks like so you can identify the type of snake from
pictures in the emergency room.
Remove all items that may restrict circulation in the
affected extremity. Watches, bracelets, rings, gloves, or shoes may pose
a problem as the bite area swells.
Immobilize the affected area as much as possible. Attempt
to keep the bite at or slightly below the level of the head.
If swelling occurs rapidly, place a 1-inch-wide
constricting band about 2 inches above the bite. This is not a tourniquet
and should not fit so tightly you cannot easily slip a finger under it.
Do not place a constricting band on a joint.
Attempt to keep the victim from moving rapidly about
while transporting him/her to the nearest emergency medical facility as
quickly as possible.
a. Do not Give the victim
anything to eat or drink, particularly alcohol;
b. Do not Place the affected area
c. Do not Make any cuts or apply
suction to the area;
d. Do not Attempt to give antivenom;
e. Do not Administer pain or anti-anxiety
After a flood, storms, or hurricane, snakes are forced
into places where they usually are not found. Take the following precautions
if you live in an area where poisonous snakes are common.
Safety Precautions With Snakes
Know how to identify poisonous snakes common to your
Be alert for snakes in unusual places. They may be found
in or around homes, barns, outbuildings, driftwood, levees, dikes, dams,
stalled automobiles, piles of debris, building materials, trash, or any
type of rubble or shelter.
Keep a heavy stick or some other weapon handy.
Search the premises thoroughly for snakes before beginning
any cleanup or rescue operations. Snakes may be under or near any type
of protective cover.
In rescue or cleanup operations, wear heavy leather
or rubber high-topped boots, and heavy gloves. Wear trouser legs outside
boots. Be extremely careful around debris. Use rakes, pry bars, or other
long-handled tools when removing debris. Never expose your hands, feet,
or other parts of your body in a place where a snake might hide.
Carry a strong light after dark.
Explain to children the dangers of snakes under storm
or flood conditions, and the precautions they should follow. Do not allow
children to play around debris.
If you kill a poisonous snake, use a stick, rake, or
other long-handled tool to carry the snake away for disposal. Snakes may
bite even when they appear dead.
If you realize you are near a snake, avoid sudden movement,
which may cause the snake to strike. If you remain still the snake may
leave. If the snake doesn't move away from you slowly back away from it.
If someone is bitten by a poisonous snake, call a doctor
To get rid of snakes in buildings and to prevent other
snakes from entering:
There are no sprays, dusts, or poisons that have legal
registration for use around homes or farms to repel or kill snakes.
Remove snakes' food supply. Eliminating rats and mice
from an area often discourages snakes.
Remove snakes' hiding places. Get rid of lumber piles,
trash piles, high weeds and grasses, and debris.
Block openings where snakes might enter buildings. Snakes
can pass through extremely small openings and usually enter near or below
ground level. Be sure doors, windows, and screens fit tightly. Search walls
and floors for holes or crevices. Inspect the masonry of foundations, fireplaces,
and chimneys; plug or cement cracks. Plug spaces around pipes that go through
outside walls. Fasten galvanized screen over drains or ventilators, or
over large areas of loose construction.
Low places under houses are likely to trap water,
which provides a harborage for water moccasins. Outdoor sheds and barns
are also ideal places for snakes to hide. These areas should be drained
Homeowners returning to areas inundated by floodwaters
are likely to encounter infestations of insects, rodents, snakes, and other
pests that can cause numerous health problems for humans and livestock.
Rats and other rodents may move into homes and outbuildings
to escape floodwaters. Search likely harboring places in your home and
farm buildings. Carry a flashlight and approach closets, basements, storage
areas, stairwells, bins, and shelves cautiously.
Do not endanger yourself. Guard against rat bites.
If you are bitten by a rodent, try to capture or kill it, and take it immediately
to a health authority to check for rabies. You may need medical treatment.
Rats that cannot be eliminated by clubbing or trapping,
destroy by poisoning. Zinc Phosphide is a rat poison to use if there is
no danger of small children or pets contacting them. This material kill
rats quickly. The anticoagulant poisons (warfarin, pival, fumarin, and
diphacinone) are safer to use around small children and pets, but require
at least four days of successive feeding before the rats begin to die.
Death of rats continues for two weeks or longer after consuming bait.
After the infestation is controlled, conduct a careful
cleanup program. Remove trash piles, and avoid piling up lumber, trash,
or damaged furniture or equipment on the ground. Store materials on platforms
or shelves 12-18 inches above the ground. Make every effort to deprive
the rats of food, food scraps, hiding places, or harborage. Clear outdoor
harborages after rats are under control--never before--since rats may be
driven into the house for refuge. It's also easier to choose proper places
to put bait before cleanup.
Clean up piles of garbage and debris both indoors
and outdoors, and cover garbage cans tightly. Store foods in glass or metal
containers in cupboards. Set traps and poisons in strategic locations,
and maintain them even after you have stopped an infestation. Dispose of
dead rodents as you would livestock carcasses.
Use the following preventive measures, and apply pesticides
if necessary. Do not overreact to emergency conditions, however.
pesticides only in the areas and amounts specified on the labels.
Keep them out of the reach of children, pets, and livestock.
Insects multiply rapidly because post-flood conditions
provide many favorable breeding sites. Mosquito, fly, and other insect
outbreaks can reach alarming rates quickly.
Avoid potential health problems by eliminating breeding
spots. Cesspools, cisterns, trash containers, and rain barrels should be
covered. Drain standing puddles, marshes, and containers filled with water.
Use insecticides to treat standing water and sanitation pits. Dispose of
garbage and animal carcasses as recommended. If you use manure as fertilizer,
spread it thinly so that it dries quickly.
Repair or replace damaged screens, windows, doors,
and vents that allow insects to enter your home and farm buildings.
Use household sprays indoors and apply an insecticide
to window screens. In heavily infected areas, use commercial outdoor sprays,
and wear protective clothing and insect repellant. An insecticide supplier
can recommend chemicals and application procedures.