What to do if you're ever bitten by a snake - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

What to do if you're ever bitten by a snake

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - With the changing weather, we know more people are making plans to be outdoors.

And conservationists are asking you to be mindful of where you step.

The best advice from a naturalist I talked to today was, if you see a snake leave it alone.

But there's always a possibility a bite could come without warning.

If that's the case, here's what you need to know.

Naturalist Jordi Brotoski with the Missouri Department of Conservation says it's possible to tell if the snake that slithers by you is venomous.

"We do really focus on learning the pattern," Brotoski said. "If you can remember those four patterns for the snakes in your area, then you are set because the other snakes don't really look like that. If you want to look a little bit further, you can look at the pupil. If it is a non-venomous in the state of Missouri it will be a circular pupil, if it is venomous it will have an up and down cat eye."

The copperhead has hourglass-shaped cross bands, the timber has dark brown blotches, the pygmy has small dark brown spots and the water moccasin has a black body with little or no pattern.

All four can be found wherever there's food like forests, lakes, rivers even trees.

Brotoski says it's important to know what to do if you're ever bitten by a snake.

Remain calm and minimize physical activity.

Do not try to capture or kill the snake, medical treatment will be the same regardless of the type of snake that bit you.

Remove rings, watches and restrictive clothing in case swelling occurs.

Rinse off any venom on the skin around the bite.

Go to the nearest hospital, regardless if the snake is venomous or not.

"It depends of the snake bite and location of the bite," she said. "The further extremity is away from the heart the less damage it will likely do and the more chances of survival you will have."

There is good news. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a snakebite ranks just above falling space debris as a threat to human life.

Equally important is what not to do:

- Apply ice to the bite.

- Cut the wound or attempt to remove venom.

- Apply a tourniquet or constricting bands.

- Use an electrical device to shock the bite.

- Drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

Here are some ways to reduce the already tiny risk of snakebite:

- Learn to identify venomous snakes, and know their habits.

- Never handle venomous snakes.

- When possible, delay work until snakes' inactive period from November through March.

- Wear boots and heavy trousers when working or hiking in areas where snakes live.

- Wear a heavy, long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves when you must work with your hands around rock piles or other snake habitat.

- Use a pole, rake, stick, etc. to probe snake-prone areas before starting work.

- Work or hike with other people for mutual aid in case of emergency.

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