Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Here’s how to identify whether a snake in your backyard is venomous

Eastern milk snake. (WYDaily/File photo)
Eastern milk snake. (WYDaily/File photo)

It’s that time of the year again, when snakes and bugs are beginning to come back out from winter hiding.

In Virginia, where there are some venomous species of snakes, some homeowners may have questions about which snakes they’re finding in their backyards or crawl spaces.

While asking questions on social media can be helpful, the Virginia Herpetological Society has an entire webpage dedicated to discerning which snakes are harmless and which are venomous.

The website shows photographs and gives information on each type of snake, including where they can be found.

In Virginia, there are three common types of venomous snakes: the Eastern Copperhead, Northern Cottonmouth and Timber Rattlesnake.

All of the snakes can be found in the Hampton Roads area.

The website also lists about two dozen harmless snakes, including the Northern Rough Greensnake, Brown Watersnake and Dekay’s Brownsnake.

About 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes a year in the U.S. Between five and 10 people die, the herpetological society said.

In case of a venomous bite, here are some tips from the Virginia Herpetological Society:

  • Get medical help immediately. Call 911. Keep calm.
  • Mark the place of the bite, and write the time of the bite on the person using a permanent marker.
  • Restrict movement, make a loose splint to restrict movement.
  • Keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
  • Remove rings or constricting items because the bitten area may swell.
  • Monitor the person’s vital signs — temperature, pulse, rate of breathing. Look for signs of shock like paleness, lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot and cover the person with a blanket.
  • If swelling occurs, mark the extent of the swelling with a marker, and write the time.
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood; the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it. Once a pressure bandage has been applied, it should not be removed until the patient has reached a medical professional.

When bitten by a venomous snake, do not:

  • allow the person to become overexerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.
  • apply a tourniquet.
  • apply cold compresses.
  • cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
  • try to suction the venom by mouth.
  • give the person stimulants or pain medications unless instructed to do so by a doctor.
  • give the person anything by mouth, except water
  • raise the site of the bite above the level of the person’s heart.
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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