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  • Avoid These Five Mistakes Campers Make with Venomous Snakes

    We all love spending time in the great outdoors, there is nothing so refreshing as taking a break from bustling city life to get back to nature.

    However, as with holidays, it is important to do some research on where you're going, and who is going to be there!

    Snake species are not the most unfriendly local you may encounter on your holiday, but they can prove deadly if trifled with.

    There are five key mistakes people often make when campers encounter snakes, and five things to try to do instead.

    Tip #1 - Do your research!

    water moccasin snake coiled with mouth open on bed of pine needles

    Most incidents happen when campers run into snakes unprepared. Knowing where you are going and what species live there is very useful information to have on hand.

    Venomous snake species in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes. Doing your research by contacting a local biologist to ask about species in your area. Alternatively, use the national parks website to see what snakes are in your area.

    Beyond knowing what snakes are about, it is important to know where you might encounter them. By avoiding these areas, you may be able to avoid an encounter altogether.

    Taking a field guide on your walk with you is another useful hack - it allows you to I.D. species as you encounter them as opposed to trying to remember them!

    Tip #2 - Stay to assigned trails/camping areas

    Man hiking a trail

    Snakes do not tend to like busy areas and so staying on the busy trails means you are less likely to encounter one.

    Where possible, avoid areas that go through long grass as these will be the favorite spots for snakes. You should also endeavor to avoid hot and rocky areas or particularly sandy patches, as this is another favorite hang out for snakes.

    If you absolutely have to stray off the beaten track, it is best to carry a hiking stick (or even just a long stick) to check the ground in front of you is safe to step!

    Equally, when looking to a place to pitch your tent, try to avoid the areas described above. Stick to main public campgrounds as much as possible. If you must camp in more rural areas, aim for open areas that are not under trees or near any long grass, sand, or rocky areas.

    Tip #3 - Dress for the occasion

    Pair of hiking boots

    Wearing the correct clothes to prevent a snakebite can be a crucial tactic. Avoid walking around the campsite barefoot or in open-toed shoes, instead wear closed-toed covered shoes. Similarly, avoid wearing short pants, instead opt for long, loose trousers.

    If you are hiking alongside your camping, you should opt to wear fitted, sturdy walking shoes as these will provide you the most protection.

    Tip #4 - What to do in an emergency

    Hospital emergency entrance sign

    Though you can do all you can to prepare, emergency situations do happen, and a bite may occur. It is important in these situations not to panic and to seek help immediately, as this is where common mistakes are made.

    Historic advice is to attempt to suck out the poison yourself. However, doing this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, it doesn't work, and it will just transfer the venom to a different person or a different part of the body.

    You should NOT attempt to make a tourniquet as this can cause nerve damage. Do NOT attempt to cut at the bite to increase blood flow, as this also does not work and can cause the person to bleed out.

    Instead, you should first try to remain calm, or help the bitten person to remain calm. Keeping calm will reduce your heart rate and thus decrease the rate at which the poison travels around your body. If you like, you can press a light compression bandage to cover the bite, as some believe this can slow the spread of the venom.

    You should attempt to ID the snake, as this will be vital information for paramedics and doctors to have. It may also be useful to note the time of the bite.

    You should return to your vehicle as quickly and calmly as possible and drive to the local hospital. Call ahead to the paramedics to let them know you're coming so they can prep the necessary antivenom.

    Depending on where your focus is, a situation may arise where you are not aware that you have been bitten. Symptoms of a snake bite include pain and burning, followed by swelling and blistering. Other symptoms included nausea, vomiting, and numbness, or tingling around the mouth, fingers, and scalp. These will of course vary depending on the species of snake that bites you. If anyone in your camp is showing any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

    Tip #5 - Appreciate Snakes

    snake wrapped around tree limbs

    Snakes are a force of nature and it's important you treat them as such! Seeing a snake in the wild is a rare experience and can be extremely rewarding if handled the right way. A common mistake is to approach a snake, which can end in a bite.

    Experts believe that on spotting a snake, you should stay at least three feet away as snakes usually cannot strike more than the length of half their body.

    If you wish, you can take some pictures (from a distance) or you can simply sit and watch. If you wish to move away, do so slowly and carefully, as there may be other animals in the area.


    Snakes are a gorgeous reptile that should be treated with the respect that you would reserve for any other predator.

    Giving these animals space is the easiest way to avoid a bite. Understanding where you might encounter one and sticking to public trails is also an excellent tool. Finally, having an emergency plan and knowing where your nearest hospital is a crucial last resort.

    About the Author

    Johnathan DavidJohnathan David is the author of EverythingReptiles.com and has been a reptile hobbyist since childhood. He has years of experience in herpetoculture and personally keeps gargoyle geckos, a blue tongue skink, and poison dart frogs.

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