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Snake Bites

21 posts in this topic

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OK, we've all seen snakes, talked about snakes, and aren't generally fond of snakes, but how many are actually prepared for a snake bit while in the field?

I'll admit that I am not, in spite of being very close to a few cotton mouths over the years.  I remember watching a cotton mouth actually slither over my boot when I looked down while finding a cache in GBP. 

So, what is the best way to deal with a snake bite when you are deep in the woods?  I've heard that snake bit kits are worthless.  If I'm close to my vehicle, I might walk (slowly) to it.  If my cell phone has any bars, then I'd probably call 911.  However, I'd like to have a good plan to deal with this...and not have to wear snake boots.

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We went to a snakes presentation at Hunstville State Park a few years back.  The ranger that did the presentation said that really the best way to treat a snake bite (for the snakes found in our region) is very similar to the way you would treat a sting.  Stay calm, clean the area, stay hydrated and pop a benedryl.  She said that in her experience that those who make it to the ER are going to be given a bendryl and watched for further signs of trauma or allergy type reaction.  Similar to bee stings and scorpion stings, one really doesn't know how they are going to react to it until it happens and let's hope most of us never find out how our body does react.

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Great info Skyfire!!

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Note to self.... add Benedryl to caching bag.  And glove box.

The problem with the snake kits is they didn't do any good for the venom, but often resulted in infections.... and I;m sure the use of one was contrary tot he whole "Stay Calm" recommendation.

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Everything I've read says to stay calm and sit down.  If you're still alive in 10 minutes then the snake missed a major artery or vein and you will most likely survive.  I would make a phone call or send a text just in case you're not so that at least your body can be recovered before being torn to bits by the coyotes, bobcats and pigs.  Snake boots are quite comfortable nowadays!

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Not certain that advice applies to coral snakes.  We're lucky because coral snake bites are very rare.  They don't come out often and tend to flee first.  They're also more prevalent in sparsely populated areas (sounds like a cache could be out there).  The venom attacks your breathing muscles so you need artificial respiration (another reason not to cache alone).  But you also need antivenom that apparently isn't made anymore because it's not profitable because so few people get bitten.  So, stay away from the coral snakes.  BTW, they apparently like to be in rotting wood, where most of the TXGCC caches that we've found are hidden and likely many others.

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According to http://www.snakefactsonline.com , coral snakes account for less than 1% of all snake bites in the US, due to their shyness and lack of aggression.  Also, they have small mouths with small fangs that have trouble penetrating shoes or thick clothing.  They do have a powerful venom that caused death for about 10% of those bitten in the days before anti-venom.

I've heard that to get a deadly bite from a coral snake, you'd have to let it gnaw on you for a while.  So basically, it can kill you -- but you have to want to die.  :o

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This is very good information.  The link from Bografan I found to be most helpful, including the links at the bottom to TPWD. I also thought the idea of having benedryl was a good idea as well.  There does seem to be a lot of contradicting information on the treatment, but there are certainly some key items to remember.  Here is an excerpt of one that I liked, but some of the items were not consistent with other sites.

  1. Safety first! Get away from the snake. That's probably why it bit in the first place. Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it.

  2. Call 911 immediately! Waiting until the pain may lead to permanent tissue damage. Remember that calling 911 on a cell phone is different than a regular phone.

  3. Do not elevate. Keep the bite below the level of the heart.

  4. Wash the area with warm water and soap.

  5. Remove constricting clothing and jewelry from the extremity. The area may swell and constricting items will cause tissue death.

  6. If the snake is an elapid species (coral snakes and cobras), wrap the extremity with an elastic pressure bandage. Start from the point closest to the heart and wrap towards the fingers or toes. Continue to keep the bite lower than the heart.

  7. Follow the basics of first aid while waiting for responders to arrive. Be especially concerned about the potential for shock.

Tips:

  1. NO CUTTING & SUCKING! Those snake bite kits from the drug store don't work. Cutting into the wound will just create infections.

  2. An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of first aid:

          * Wear long pants and boots taller than the ankle.

          * Avoid tall brush and deep, dark crevices.

          * Make plenty of noise and vibration while walking.

          * Do not approach snakes, avoid them.

          * Do not expect rattlesnakes to make any noises.

  3. If the snake is dead, bringing it to the hospital is appropriate. Be careful, dead snakes can reflexively bite for up to an hour.

  4. In today's digital world, pictures are easy to get. A quick picture of the snake - even with a cell phone - will help medical crews identify the animal. Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, identified by dents in the side of their heads that look like ears. Coral snakes are small with bands of red bordered by pale yellow or white. Cobras have hoods that spread behind their heads.

  5. It's not that important to identify the snake; medical crews in areas prone to snake bites can often identify the animal just from the wound. Pit vipers have two fangs and the bite often has two small holes (see illustration). Coral snakes have small mouths full of teeth with rows of small puncture wounds.

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According to http://www.snakefactsonline.com , coral snakes account for less than 1% of all snake bites in the US, due to their shyness and lack of aggression.  Also, they have small mouths with small fangs that have trouble penetrating shoes or thick clothing.  They do have a powerful venom that caused death for about 10% of those bitten in the days before anti-venom.

I've heard that to get a deadly bite from a coral snake, you'd have to let it gnaw on you for a while.  So basically, it can kill you -- but you have to want to die.  :o

Per the link which Bografan provided, "However, the coral snake does not have to "chew" its victim to inflict a painfully venomous bite."  However, the treatment of a coral snake bite seems to be different than that of a pit viper (copperhead, cottonmouth and rattlesnake) where they say to wrap the bite.

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I operate under the premise that any snake can be found anywhere.  The logical number one factor being a food source.  I've caught a variety of them in the flower beds, pool skimmer, and in my barn.  I've even found evidence (shed skin) in the attic.  Now with the drought a water source may can draw their food.  Frogs for example.  Snakes like frogs.  Ever hear a frog "scream".  I caught the one in the attached pics by the sidewalk in a parking lot.

post-1097-131759834262_thumb.jpg

post-1097-131759834324_thumb.jpg

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The new guidelines from the American Heart Association states that besides cleaning the area with water (soap if available), and immobilizing the area, a tourniquet should be applied to the extremity of all snake bites.  Besides slowing down the venom, "effectiveness of pressure immobilization has also been demonstrated for bites by non-neurotoxic American snakes."

Those are the 2010/2011 guidelines.

Even though people are afraid of snake bites, it really is kind of rare.  Last month a man was bit in the hand by a coral snake.  He killed it, and drove himself and the dead snake, for identification, to the hospital where I work.  His hand was already greatly swollen, and they gave him a medication to counteract the toxins.  The nurse taking care of him told me that she had worked in the hospital over 7 years, and has never seen a snake bite at the hospital before.  Discussing this with other nurses in the hospital, they have never seen a snake bite at the hospital either.

Snakes usually aren't interested in you unless you bother them first.

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I have the same rule for two year olds, dogs, and snakes.  If he bites me, I bite him back. 

Baytown Bert likes this

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The new guidelines from the American Heart Association states that besides cleaning the area with water (soap if available), and immobilizing the area, a tourniquet should be applied to the extremity of all snake bites.  Besides slowing down the venom, "effectiveness of pressure immobilization has also been demonstrated for bites by non-neurotoxic American snakes."

Those are the 2010/2011 guidelines.

Even though people are afraid of snake bites, it really is kind of rare.  Last month a man was bit in the hand by a coral snake.  He killed it, and drove himself and the dead snake, for identification, to the hospital where I work.  His hand was already greatly swollen, and they gave him a medication to counteract the toxins.  The nurse taking care of him told me that she had worked in the hospital over 7 years, and has never seen a snake bite at the hospital before.  Discussing this with other nurses in the hospital, they have never seen a snake bite at the hospital either.

Snakes usually aren't interested in you unless you bother them first.

Other than the aforementioned cottonmouth which slithered over my boot after I had presumably bothered it looking for a cache, I saw a pretty large cottonmouth with a very aggressive stance (coiled, middle of the trail, mouth open, not giving ground) while caching as well.  I tried to get him to move with a long branch, but he wasn't having any of that and stood his ground.  So, the point is that not all of them just slither away and we, as cachers, do bother them while hunting caches.  So, we should all be aware of what to do in the (unlikely) event that one of us is bitten.

I now have some tools I can bring to bear in case I or others are bitten.  Thanks all.

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Another handy tool is a handgun with shotshells.  It works great on those snakes that insist on holding their ground.  Sometimes you just have to show them who is at the top of the food chain!

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Another handy tool is a handgun with shotshells.  It works great on those snakes that insist on holding their ground.  Sometimes you just have to show them who is at the top of the food chain!

Unlike some others I know, I don't usually pack heat with me while caching.  I do, however, have a nice handy machete.  Given the choice, I'd rather have a .357 with snake shot tho.

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I just caught this one a few minutes ago while spreading mulch in a flower bed.  It an Eastern Hog-nosed.  Really cool snake.  Very docile.  They like to try and bluff you.  They spread their head like a cobra (as pictured) and if you keep gently messing with them they will roll over on their back and play dead.  It startled me at first glance I thought it was a Copperhead.

post-1097-131759834328_thumb.jpg

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I just caught this one a few minutes ago while spreading mulch in a flower bed.  It an Eastern Hog-nosed.  Really cool snake.  Very docile.  They like to try and bluff you.  They spread their head like a cobra (as pictured) and if you keep gently messing with them they will roll over on their back and play dead.  It startled me at first glance I thought it was a Copperhead.

Your nuts!

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and when they are playing dead try rolling him back over upright - he'll immediately roll back over on his back where any respectable dead snake should be!! Had a few of them as pets when growing up - cool snakes

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We had an Aggie hognose show up in our backyard once.  It was in its red phase and was Aggie maroon.  I don't think I have ever seen anything in nature quite as maroon as that snake was.  Scared all of us when it started it blowing and puffing until we figured out it was an Eastern Hognose and really not as harmful as it wanted us to believe.

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Everything I've read says to stay calm and sit down.  If you're still alive in 10 minutes then the snake missed a major artery or vein and you will most likely survive.  I would make a phone call or send a text just in case you're not so that at least your body can be recovered before being torn to bits by the coyotes, bobcats and pigs.  Snake boots are quite comfortable nowadays!

Are you a *sales rep* for the Snake Boot company?  :D

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