Snakes Not So Charming in the Wild
Keep your eyes open
"Snakes will not pursue you and are not aggressive unless
they feel cornered," King says. "If you find them at the base of a rock
face where they can't back up, they may seem aggressive. But given a chance,
almost every snake will flee and get away."
When you're out in nature, keep your eyes open and watch where
you're walking. Don't step across a rock or fallen tree limb, because you can't
see what's on the other side. Instead, step on the rock and then over.
"Snakes, harmless or venomous, hide under things where they
have shelter," King says. "They don't like being stepped on by people
or deer, so they tend to lie under the edge of logs or rocks."
If you live in an area with snakes, King suggests learning to
identify the venomous from non-venomous species. And forget the myth that all
venomous snakes have triangle-shaped heads or oval, cat-like eyes.
"Coral snakes don't," he points out. "There simply
is no other way of doing it than getting familiar with the snakes."
The University of Florida Museum of Natural History has put
together an online field guide
(www.flmnh.ufl.edu/natsci/herpetology/fl-guide/onlineguide.htm) of the state's
snakes. "We put in a key to identify snakes, and it is written for the
layman," he says.
If you see a snake and can't identify it, don't handle it, King
warns. If you do and are bitten, try to kill the snake and bring it to the
hospital for identification. If the snake is poisonous, your prognosis and
therapy will depend on the type of snake.
"Obviously, don't get bitten twice more trying to find the
snake," says Craig S. Kitchens, MD, a professor of medicine at the
University of Florida in Gainesville.
A hematologist, Kitchens has been treating snakebites in
Florida for 20 years. He sees between 30 and 40 victims a year. From that he
has learned that the vast majority of snakebites are the result of someone
poking, teasing, or cornering a snake.
"Snakes don't fall out of trees and bite your behind,"