Venomous Snakes Bite 2 Campers + Safety Tips

A recent story in Vogel Talks RVing identified the various species of venomous snakes found in the United States and Canada and the appropriate first aide treatment.

The #1 key to identifying the venomous vipers among us, and being able to tell them apart from native harmless snakes, is by the shape of the head.  Moccasins, Copperheads and Rattlesnakes all have large venom glands in their cheeks which makes their heads distinctively wider than their necks. (Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

The #1 key to identifying the venomous vipers among us, and being able to tell them apart from native harmless snakes, is by the shape of the head. Moccasins, Copperheads and Rattlesnakes all have large venom glands in their cheeks which makes their heads distinctively wider than their necks. (Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

Since posting this article two campers were bitten by a venomous snake in separate incidents.

Idaho: Rattlesnake Bite

An Idaho woman is recovering after a rattlesnake bite sent her to the hospital. It happened near the Willowcreek campground east of Boise, where Olga Cortez of Caldwell was staying with her family. She had planned to spend the weekend camping, but instead, she spent three days in the ICU at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Meridian, reports KTVB-TV.

Cortez says she was walking on a trail with her husband when the snake struck. The rattlesnake had sunk its teeth into her foot as she walked near her campsite along the Boise River.

“I felt something bit me but I didn’t see it, and then all of a sudden I looked down, and there it was,” said Cortez.

“I started getting really hot, and numbness, and a really burning sensation and numbness, and by the time we got to the campsite I couldn’t walk,” said Cortez.

Venomous vipers have wider heads than their harmless relatives, a characteristic which can be easily recognized. Compare width of head of this harmless gopherxnake with earlier image of a rattlesnake. (Courtesy:  swfieldherp.com)

Venomous vipers have wider heads than their harmless relatives, a characteristic which can be easily recognized. Compare width of head of this harmless gopherxnake with earlier image of a rattlesnake. (Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

It took Cortez an hour and a half to get to the hospital, then she spent three days in the ICU with a swollen foot and leg. She’s grateful only one of the snake’s fangs hit her foot. The other went through her sandal.

According to wildlife expert Frank Lundberg, a gopher snake looks similar to a rattlesnake, but is harmless. He says the best thing to do if you see any of Idaho’s 12 species is to remember that they don’t want to be bothered. He suggests wearing heavy shoes and keeping your dog close by if you’re hiking this time of year.

Tennessee: Venomous Snake Bite

A 53-year-old man was bitten by a venomous snake while camping at the Cades Cove Campground. The victim, identified as John Spencer was in a restroom on the group site of the campground when he was bitten by the snake.

It was not known what breed of snake bit Spencer, but it could be determined by the bite that it was poisonous, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spokeswoman Molly Schroer told The Daily Times.

Park rangers took Spencer in the care of the Townsend Fire Department emergency personnel via Rural/Metro Ambulance Service. Townsend Fire set up a landing zone on Highway 73 near Sundown Resort, where Spencer was later flown via LifeStar to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

In the case of the Rattlesnake of course, the distinctive rattle on the end of the tail is a sure give-away to the identification of the serpent, but given the fact that young Rattlesnakes do not have a functioning rattle, or a Rattlesnake may lose a rattle to a predator or to an accident, head shape recognition becomes your best indicator.(Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

In the case of the Rattlesnake of course, the distinctive rattle on the end of the tail is a sure give-away to the identification of the serpent, but given the fact that young Rattlesnakes do not have a functioning rattle, or a Rattlesnake may lose a rattle to a predator or to an accident, head shape recognition becomes your best indicator.(Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

He was reported to be in fair condition, according to the nursing supervisor’s office.

What To Do If You Encounter a Venomous Snake

If you spend much time out of doors in parks and other natural areas, chances are that someday you will encounter a potentially dangerous snake. The most important thing for you to do in such an encounter is to stay calm and not panic. The snake WILL NOT ATTACK YOU.

IF YOU SEE THE SNAKE - Stay calm, move slowly away from it, and keep your distance. The snake will not attack you.

IF YOU HEAR THE SNAKE BEFORE YOU SEE IT - DO NOT MOVE until you see the snake or know exactly where it is. Move slowly away from it, and keep your distance. Again, the snake will not attack you.

What To Do In The Event of a Venomous Snake Bite

There are two types of Coral Snakes in the U.S., the Eastern Coral Snake, and the Western Coral Snake. Of the two types, the Eastern Coral Snake is the largest and has the largest distribution. It is found in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. (Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

There are two types of Coral Snakes in the U.S., the Eastern Coral Snake, and the Western Coral Snake. Of the two types, the Eastern Coral Snake is the largest and has the largest distribution. It is found in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. (Courtesy: swfieldherp.com)

Call 911 for medical assistance, or get the victim to a hospital.

Remove rings, watches, and anything else in the area of the wound that may restrict blood flow.

Slow down the swelling of the bitten limb by wrapping it with an elastic bandage (Ace bandage) tight enough to create some constriction, but not tight enough to restrict blood flow.

Use a splint to restrict movement of the bitten limb.

Prepare a cold washcloth or an icepack to apply to the victims forehead to help reduce nausea.

The absolute best course of action is to get the victim to a hospital or get medical assistance to the victim ASAP.

A working cell phone and a GPS make up the best “snake bite kit” you can carry with you.

DO NOT apply a tourniquet or attempt to restrict blood flow.

DO NOT expose the area of the bite to cold or apply an ice pack to it.

DO NOT drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol as a painkiller, or take aspirin or ibuprofen.

The only treatment for an envenomation is the use of antivenin which must be administered by medical professionals.

Note: The above information is courtesy Southwestern Field Herping Associates.

Worth Pondering…

A rattlesnake loose in the living room tends to end all discussion of animal rights.

—Lance Morrow

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