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How to Avoid Snakes and Prevent Snakebites

Having the ability to correctly identify venomous and nonvenomous snakes is a good skill to learn. Seeing this brown-colored snake in the water would make some people think it's a harmless water snake. Its true identity is a venomous copperhead. (Jeff Phillips photo)
Having the ability to correctly identify venomous and nonvenomous snakes is a good skill to learn. Seeing this brown-colored snake in the water would make some people think it's a harmless water snake. Its true identity is a venomous copperhead. (Jeff Phillips photo)

The best way to avoid a nasty bite from a venomous snake is to keep your distance, but this doesn't prevent all possible encounters; educate yourself with these six best practices to keep the probability of getting impaled with fangs on the low side

1. Not all snakes are bad. When you encounter a snake in your yard or when wandering about, it’s important to identify the snake. Most are harmless but a few can be deadly. For example, the common bull snake or gopher snake may appear to be a rattlesnake at first glance but a careful look will reveal the lack of rattles on the tail and the obvious triangular shape of the head common to vipers. These snakes are friendlies and shouldn’t be harmed; they will attack and eat rattlesnakes. Having them around is a good thing. Some folks sometimes capture gopher snakes to take home and turn loose on their property as a defense against rattlesnakes.

2. About 80 percent of the people hit by venomous snakes were handling the snake when they were bitten. Playing with dangerous snakes or handling them to relocate is a really good way to get tagged. Even dead snakes can hurt you, as a friend of mine discovered when the head of a rattlesnake he had chopped off an hour earlier bit him. Another friend died after a rattlesnake he attempted to pick up bit him twice. Don’t handle dangerous snakes.

3. How do you deal with a dead venomous snake? The usual prescription is to cut off and bury the head, but let me add a little wisdom. Don’t step on the snake and reach down with a pocketknife to cut off the head. That’s a good way to get bitten on the hand or the foot. I prefer to use a long blade, such as a machete, because it gives me some reach. Don’t chop; the head may fly through the air, in some cases narrowly missing your face (ask me how, I know). Slice the head off, scoop it up with the blade, dig a hole with the blade and bury the head. If you have one handy, a shovel works very well.

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