How to Avoid Snakes While Hiking
Although snakes can be scary, there is no reason that they should stop you from getting outdoors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports, “Each year, an estimated 7,000–8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States, and about 5 of those people die.” (CDC).
While death by snake bites is extremely rare, it is still important to be aware of all potential threats in your environment so you can keep yourself and your family safe.
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Be Prepared and Do Your Research About Local Snakes
Most serious incidences occur when hikers run into snakes unprepared. Having a basic understanding of the general nature of snakes and how to act around them can help keep you and your family safe, and the snakes will appreciate it too. It is also important to understand the species in the location you are hiking and how to identify them.
Which Snakes Are Venomous and How to Tell?
In the United States, there are four types of venomous snakes. Make sure to research what kind of snakes you can expect in your area before you leave and how to identify them. Consider bringing a printout or field guide so that you are able to look up information while hiking instead of trying to remember it. Remember, most snakes are non-venomous.
How to Avoid Snake Bites While Hiking
The following are some tips you can use to make sure you and your family stay safe on your next adventure.
Watch Your Step
The most basic but most important tip is to pay attention to the trail ahead of you. When you come upon large logs or rocks step on them as opposed to over so you don’t accidentally step on a snake sheltering on the other side.
This is most important when hiking in an area with rattlesnakes These are times when you need to take out the earbuds and save the music for later.
Avoid Rocky Areas
Snakes like to take shelter and cool off during hot days in crevices between rocks. The heat of the day is not a good time to do any rock scrambling in areas with snakes. In fact, it may be best to avoid it altogether.
Stick to the Trail
Snakes prefer quiet secluded areas, not popular trails. Not only will staying on the trail keep you away from snakes but it helps preserve our natural areas.
Hike With Trekking Poles
Use a long stick or trekking poles like these to help push back tall grass while hiking. Pushing the grass away can help you locate any snakes before stepping.
Check Trail Reviews
Websites such as AllTrails include reviews of trails. Check these reviews for signs of snakes in the area, and make sure to check the date the review was made.
What to Do If You See A Snake?
If you encounter a snake while hiking, the best thing you can do is avoid it. Experts recommend staying at least 3 feet away. If you accidentally walk closer, your best bet is to back away slowly. Rather than getting close to identify the type of snake, take pictures from a distance using the zoom feature on your phone or camera.
Signs/Symptoms of a Snake Bite
While you might see a snake bite, it is possible to miss it. This is most common in high water when you may feel a bite but assume it was something other than a snake. Pay attention to the following snake bite signs.
Depending on the type of snake, the CDC lists the signs and symptoms of a snake bite as follows:
- A pair of puncture marks at the wound
- Redness and swelling around the bite
- Severe pain at the site of the bite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
- Disturbed vision
- Increased salivation and sweating
- Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs
What To do if You or Someone With You is Bitten by a Snake
Take a Picture
If you or someone you know is bitten, try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake, reference the picture you took, or take one if possible to do so safely. The picture can help with the treatment of the snake bite.
Stay Calm and Still
Keep the bitten person calm and still. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is venomous. If possible lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
Seek Medical Attention as Soon as Possible
Dial 911 immediately if you have cell service or use another emergency communication device (such as the Garmin inReach Mini).
Apply First Aid
Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately. Then cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
Don’t Do These If Bitten by a Snake
Do Not Pick up the Snake or Try to Trap it
Trying to capture or kill snakes is the most common reason people are bitten.
Do Not Apply a Tourniquet
Restricting blood flow from a limb may do permanent damage. Instead remove any constricting clothing, watches, or jewelry in case of swelling.
Do Not Introduce Bacteria to the Wound
Cutting the wound or attempting to suck the venom out of the wound introduces bacteria that may lead to infection. Also, avoid any other opportunities for infection such as immersing the wound in water or applying ice.
Do Not Drink Alcohol or Caffeinated Beverages
Alcohol thins the blood and causes the venom to spread more rapidly while caffeinated beverages can increase your heart rate.
Safe Snake Interactions
If you would like to introduce your kiddos to snakes safely and help them learn more about these creatures search for opportunities provided by experts near you. Schools sometimes have special guests visit schools like our much loved Reptile Man here in Washington State. You might also bring your kiddos to visit your local zoo or this very cool venom lab. Search to find opportunities in your area.
- First Aid Kits for the Outdoor Family
- Wilderness First Aid for Outdoor Families
- Hiking Safety for Kids
- Getting Outside During Fire Season
Snake Safety While Hiking
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