Is That Snake Venomous?

Get the Facts about Deadly Snakes

Snakes are among the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. Almost everyone knows someone who has a snake phobia, but those who fear snakes might be a lot less afraid if they had all the facts.

What is snake venom?

Snake venom is basically saliva that’s toxic because it can paralyze prey after a snake bite.

Snakes evolved to have venom as a way of protecting themselves. After all, they have no arms or legs, so they’d be pretty vulnerable in the wild without some form of defense.

What are your chances of getting bitten?

It really depends on where you live. If you live in the U.S., you can rest assured that you have a better chance of dying from a lightning strike than a snake bite. The chances of getting bitten in the U.S. are one in 100,000. And less than 30 percent of snakes are venomous. Of that number, only 10 percent are dangerous to humans. In total, there are approximately 2,955 snake bites a year in the U.S., and not all of these are from poisonous snakes. As you may have guessed, most of these bites occur in places like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

If you live in India, however, you may want to be more careful. There are about 122,000 snake bites a year there.

Are there any benefits to snake venom?

Some venoms are actually used to help treat diseases. According to CNN, Steve Ludwin, a musician from London, injected himself with snake venom for 30 years to see if his body would produce antibodies to protect him. There wasn’t any evidence that this worked, and he eventually stopped injecting himself. (It’s not recommended that you do this.)

There are three types of venom: cytotoxins, neurotoxins and hemotoxins. Most snake species carry all three in their venom.

What are the deadliest snakes?

Even though these encounters are rare, it’s good to know which species of snakes are the most dangerous.

Most people have heard of rattlesnakes because of their unique “rattling” tails. There’s a trail in New Mexico where tourists who are planning on hiking have to stay on a paved pathway for part of the journey, and there are signs that warn about rattlesnakes in the area. You can actually hear their rattles as you walk. But instead of fearing them, you should appreciate their naturally built-in warning system, because that’s what the rattle is. It’s the snake’s way of warning you if you’re getting too close.

Of course, there are some other species you’ve probably heard of—cobras, adders, vipers. There’s also the deadly blue kraits. Black Mambas are called “two-steppers” because apparently, you only get two steps before they get to you!

If you’re not sure what snake you’re encountering, there are rhymes that have to do with colors and patterns, such as: “Red touches yellow, kill a fellow. Red touches black, friend of Jack.”

What’s the deadliest snake of all?

That title would go to the dreaded Belcher’s Sea Snake. It may seem strange to you that you probably haven’t heard of it, but that’s because it’s found in the waters off Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. What makes it so deadly? A few milligrams of its venom can kill about 1,000 people! The victims are most likely fishermen.

How can you survive a venomous snake bite?

First of all, don’t do anything they show you in the movies. It’s not wise to try and suck out the venom, because it’s likely already spreading. Also, you don’t want to tie a tourniquet. It will cut off circulation, which will concentrate the venom in one area, most likely causing tissue damage. In fact, you don’t want to do anything that will reduce circulation—no cold compresses. Also, don’t waste time trying to kill the snake. Get the victim to a hospital as fast as possible.

If you can, take a photo of the snake that bit the person. Don’t clean the wound, either. Leave whatever blood is still visible. All of these things can help medical professionals choose the right anti-venom. However, there are many anti-venoms that can work on more than one type of snake bite.

Even if you don’t know whether or not it was a venomous snake, still call or have someone drive you to the emergency room. It’s better to make sure. Doctors may want to know things like how long or thick the snake was, the shape of its head and other identifying information.

Last but not least, try to stay calm. (Yeah, right!) But a fast heartbeat will spread the venom faster, something you really don’t want. So try very hard to relax.

Remember, like all living creatures, snakes should be respected, but not feared. It’s important to educate yourself about them, because education can turn fear into knowledge and a better understanding. At New England Reptile Shows, we’re dedicated to teaching and debunking the myths about these often misunderstood creatures, as well as other reptiles.

Keep checking our blog for more information, and book a show for an up close encounter with reptiles from around the world!