Prepare for the worst-case scenario by taking some basic steps and knowing how to avoid snakes while hiking. According to the CDC, an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 persons in the United States are bitten by poisonous snakes each year (CDC).
Even though the number of people who die each year in the United States as a result of this injury is small, we’d prefer not to go too close to a cottonmouth.
Depending on the time of year and the weather, the majority of bites occur between March and October. Snakes awaken from their winter hibernation at this time of year. It’s also the time of year when most people are out hiking, biking, and doing other outdoor activities.
Types Of Snakes To Look Out For
The CDC has identified four types of poisonous snakes in the United States, all of which are native to the country.
Throughout the eastern United States, copperheads may be found in swamps and along rivers, where they can be distinguished by their hourglass-shaped, reddish-to-golden-tan stripes on their bodies.
Cottonmouths, often known as water moccasins, may be found in the Southeast’s marshes and rivers.
A coral snake’s bright coloration may be mistaken for that of a nonpoisonous king snake in the southern United States’ forested, sandy, or marshy regions. If the snake’s red and yellow bands are touching, though, you’re in big danger. A coral snake is what you’re looking at.
They may be found across the continent, from mountains to deserts to beaches, thanks to their distinctive triangular heads and spiky rattles on their tails. It’s as though they were inspired by the lyrics of “God Bless America” when they built their homes.
Rattlesnakes are the most frequent of the four to be encountered on a trek in the United States. There are around 30 species of snakes in the United States, including 13 rattlesnake kinds in Arizona.
Where Are Snakes Most Likely To Be Found?
However, even though the apparent response is “everywhere,” having some background knowledge on the ecology of snakes will help eliminate any uncertainty about where you could run across one.
External sources of heat are necessary for snakes since they are ectotherms. The snake is only accumulating energy for the day, which is why you may see it stretched over a path in the early morning or late evening. Snakes, like humans, seek shade from the heat during the warmest part of the day, thus you may see them resting behind rocks and branches.
Snakes may be found in a variety of habitats, including rocky crevices, leaf litter, creek margins, or tree canopies, depending on the species. For the sake of finding food and shelter, snakes may use gorges, riparian corridors, or pathways. It doesn’t matter whether the snake snarls, hisses, or rattles; you are always more frightened of it than it is of you since you are larger, warmer, and smarter!
However, if they coil up in an S shape, rattle, or twist around in fear, snakes are urging you to leave them alone and not approach them. The hognose snake, for example, will even pretend to be dead. Regardless of whether you’re on or off the path, it’s always a good idea to be aware of where you place your hands and feet. If you can’t see a ledge or are about to go into a thick bush, stop and take a look around before moving forward any farther.
How To Avoid Snakes While Hiking
When attacked, snakes will fight back, even if they aren’t normally hostile toward people. Getting bitten by a snake when hiking or climbing is most likely to happen if you go too close to or accidentally touch one, as per the Forest Service. A large number of bites occur on the hands, feet, and ankles.
However, there are a few easy steps you can do to lessen the danger.
Staying on the route is the most crucial rule. To avoid a snake, avoid areas with dense grass and thick underbrush, which snakes like to hide in. Dogs should be kept on a leash, and children should not be allowed to walk off.
Keep an eye on where you’re going about it. Don’t step in grass or a rocky fissure if you can’t see where your foot is landing. Touching rocks or logs with your hands, on the other hand, is also a no-no.
Keep your sleeping bag clean and don’t sit on or overturn rocks or grasp sticks unless you’re sure they’re not hiding snakes, which may strike when startled. Because of their lack of ears, they won’t be able to hear you. The branch you’re trying to break off may snap back at you.
To protect your legs and feet, wear long trousers and thick socks with your hiking boots. If that’s too much to endure in the sweltering heat of summer, at the very least avoid wearing flip-flops and sandals.
Do not, under any circumstances, approach or toss anything at a snake you see while hiking. Back away from the beast or move around it to avoid it. Even if the snake is dead, avoid handling it and avoid making rapid moves toward it. Even a recently slain snake may inject poison. Remember that rattlesnakes do not often make a rattling sound before striking.
If You’ve Been Bit, Here’s What to Do
To report a suspected snake poisoning, call 911 or the hotline for a local poison control center right away. Antivenom drugs should be procured as soon as possible. It’s possible to have dizziness and nausea in the immediate aftermath of a bite from a raccoon.
The best thing to do is to keep your composure. As NPR explains, a quicker heart rate moves the venom throughout your body at a faster pace, which is easier said than done.
The bitten region should not be raised above your heart. In this way, the venom will reach that vital organ more quickly.
Avoid squeezing the infected region. The tourniquet should be avoided at all costs. Swelling after a snakebite might be exacerbated by constricted blood arteries nearby, necessitating amputation.
If you’re bitten, don’t attempt to suck the poison out of the wound or cut yourself. It’s a persistent fallacy that they are useful answers. The risk of additional injury is higher.
Now that you know how to avoid snakes while hiking, make sure to follow these tips the next time you hit the trails. And, as always, be sure to hike with a partner and carry a first-aid kit just in case!