VIRGINIA — Even if you think snakes are creepy, there are some things you need to know about coexisting with them in Virginia as they awake from their refreshing winter burmation (that’s the equivalent of hibernation in the reptile world).
One of the most important of these things is that Virginia has three species of venomous snakes — meaning they can inject poisonous venom into their victimthrough a pair of hollow, needle-like fangs — out of the 30 estimated snake species in the state.
The three Virginia venomous species are the copperhead, the timber rattlesnake, and the water moccasin (also known as the cottonmouth), according to the University of Virginia.
"All of them play an important role in controlling rodent pests, which are more likely than
snakes to spread disease and damage property," UVA said. "Most snake species
are harmless to people and pets."
The copperhead is the most common venomous snake in Virginia. They prefer to live in places where they can hide and find lots of food, such as a forest or areas with tall grass. But copperheads have been found in urban areas, too, UVA said. Timber rattlesnakes are common only in the mountainous regions of the state, and a small area of the southeastern part of Virginia where they are known as canebrake rattlesnakes.
Water moccasins are found only in the extreme southeastern tip of the state, and prefer brackish, marshy areas.
Copperheads have an hourglass shape pattern which is wider on the sides and narrower on the back, said wildlife experts. “Some segments of the pattern may be 'broken' presenting a half-hourglass shape, but overall there will be complete lateral bands that are hourglass shaped and can be used for identification,” said New Jersey Fish and Wildlife.
As for timber rattlesnakes, experts said identifying one isn’t always “as easy as it sounds.” Spotting the rattle on a snake is one thing, but many snakes also create a rattling sound to confuse predators.
Water moccasins have bodies that are very thick and heavy for their length, and short, thick tails. They have large, blocky heads and their necks are distinctly narrower than their heads. Older adults are often much darker, almost solid black, according to the University of Florida Extension Service.
Experts say snake bites are serious and require expert evaluation and treatment.
Tips on how to avoid being bitten:
- When hiking or camping, watch where you put your hands and feet. Be mindful of where you sit and where you place your sleeping bag.
- Wear suitable clothing when hiking, especially through tall grass or heavy brush. Long pants and heavy boots are usually best in tall grass and heavy brush.
- Avoid rock piles and stacks of old boards or wood in forested areas as snakes use these areas frequently, especially sunny areas with canopy gaps.
- Be careful working around brush piles or other debris. Use a rake or long handled tool to move brush, debris, or other material before picking it up.
- Never handle venomous snakes, alive or dead.
- Leave snakes alone. Many bites occur when people attempt to capture or kill venomous snakes.
If bitten by a venomous snake, immediately call 1-800-222-1222 or www.poisonhelp.org.
Do not apply ice, a tourniquet, or make an incision around the wound as these methods do not work and may cause complications.
Snakes are an important part of healthy ecosystems. A 2013 study by University of Maryland researchers found that a single timber rattlesnake removed up to 4,500 ticks from the forest annually by consuming tick-carrying small mammals. This removal ultimately can decrease the spread of Lyme disease, the DNR said.
You’re most likely to see these and other snakes when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 60s. Like us, they seek sunshine to warm their bodies after winter, increasing the potential for encounters on trails, in the woods and almost anywhere. Remember that time a copperhead showed up near the National Mall?
The Deadliest Snakes
About 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year, whether because their jobs take them outside or because they want to shake off winter, according to the CDC. Most snakes are harmless, but even those bites can cause an infection or allergic reaction.
About 90 percent of the 150 species of snake found in the United States are harmless. The 10 deadliest snakes in North America include copperheads, found throughout the eastern and central United States; cottonmouths/water moccasins, which like to hide in water throughout the Southeast and in the coastal plains north to Virginia; Eastern coral snakes, found throughout the Southeast; and rattlesnakes.
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the largest species of rattler anywhere in the world, is the most venomous of snakes in North America. It is found primarily in the pinelands of Florida, the coastal plains of North Carolina, and southern Mississippi through eastern Louisiana.
Other rattler species to be aware of:
- Timber rattlesnake, found from eastern Kansas, Texas, Iowa and central Wisconsin to Georgia, the Carolinas, West Virginia, western Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New England;
- Black rattlesnake, found widely across the western half of North America, from British Columbia to northern Mexico;
- Tiger rattlesnake, found along the Arizona-Mexico border;
- Western diamondback rattlesnake, found throughout the Southwest;
- Prairie rattlesnake, found in the Great Plains from Canada to Mexico; and
- Mojave rattlesnake (the most venomous rattlesnake in the world), found in the desert Southwest.
What To Do If You Get Bit
If you’re hiking, camping or spending time in the woods or any other place where snakes are found, have a plan on how to get emergency medical help — a good idea any time you’re out enjoying nature.
And make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit, including a snakebite kit. Be skeptical of consumer snakebite kits, according to the Snakebite Foundation, an international group of physicians, paramedics and scientists who treat snakebite patients.
Snake bites require immediate medical attention. After you’ve called 911, keep the person who was bitten calm and still to slow the spread of venom. Make sure the site of the bite is below the level of the heart; wash the wound with warm, soapy water; and cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing from the first aid kit.
‘Eek,’ You Say, But A World Without Snakes …
Snakes are unlikely to win a popularity contest, but most of the antipathies surrounding snakes are guided by ignorance and myths.
About 12 percent of snake species assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but that’s not a true measure of snakes’ conservation status since most of the world’s reptile species haven’t been assessed by the IUCN, according to Save the Snakes, a Sacramento, California-based nonprofit involved in snake conservation work.
Snakes, both predator and prey, play an important role in the ecosystem. Without them, rodent populations would explode in areas where there is plenty of food — for example, those areas where humans are the dominant species. Conversely, snakes are a good food source for bird, mammals and other reptiles.
But the good snakes do goes deeper. If all the vipers in the world suddenly didn’t exist and rodent populations were allowed to grow exponentially, diseases such as the bubonic plague, which killed millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages, could see a resurgence. Though treatable, the plague has never been completely eradicated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Humans typically get the plague when they’re bitten by a flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with the plague.
Also, some medications used to treat diabetes and heart disease have been derived from venom produced by snakes and other venomous creatures.
There’s No Need To Kill Snakes
Most encounters with snakes are in passing. The Georgia State University Cooperative Extension Service says there’s no need to kill most snakes, even when they become a nuisance — around chicken coops, for example, where they feast on young chicks and eggs.
They’re also likely to inhabit crawl spaces and attics, very often without the homeowner even knowing. Getting rid of them in these spaces can be extraordinarily difficult because they find hiding spaces in insulation and hard-to-get-to spaces. The first step should be to isolate what is attracting them — rats and mice are a good bet — and then seal off all except the main entry point with caulk or wire mesh.
If the main entry point is a vent hole, install a one-way excluder door over the main entrance to allow the snake to exit once the food source has been eliminated, Georgia State Extension advised
If you find a snake in your living quarters, put an empty bucket over it, slide a piece of heavy cardboard under it to trap it, then carry it outside. You may be able to herd it outside using a broom. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to call in a professional to help.
Venomous snakes found outdoors should be removed, though it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be killed, Georgia State Extension said. If the snake is just passing through, keep your distance, but if it’s near your house or a barn, consult a qualified nuisance-removal specialist. Several snakebites have occurred while trying to remove venomous snakes.
Snakes Do Stuff You Can’t Unsee
One of the rites of spring on social media is the roll-out of a photo showing a gigantic “garter snake mating ball.”
It’s entanglement of about 100 male red-sided garter snakes pursuing a single female who is “desperately trying” to get away, according to environmental documentary photographer Paul Colangelo, whose captured photos of the snake orgy for National Geographic.
Breeding ball behavior is most common among garter snakes. Black rattlesnakes in Arizona do it, too, according to a paper written by a couple of biology students at Reed University in Portland, Oregon.
It’s possible to see a group of red-sided garter snakes getting frisky in the spring. If your kids ask, just tell them it’s a “snake cuddlefest.” It’s not wrong.
That’s a thing you know now.
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Author :Deb Belt
Source Url :https://patch.com/virginia/across-va/3-snakes-know-your-walks-jogs-hikes-around-va
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