Snakes are just one of the many species of animals that you might encounter on a hike. Lightning-quick reflexes make it easy for snakes to strike very quickly. Plus, it can be hard to see a snake because of their camouflage. If you are on a remote trail without access to immediate help, getting bit by a snake can be deadly.
Snakes typically bite when they feel threatened. Most of the time, snake bites occur because of a lack of awareness. If you are prepared, then the chances of being bit by a snake are slim. Knowing what to do when you encounter a snake can help you stay safe on your hike.
Prevention Is The Best Medicine
Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
When hiking, watch where you are walking. Be careful when you come across logs or piles of leaves. Don’t step in an area that you can’t clearly see. When you are hiking through weeds or tall grass, be especially vigilant. Pay attention when you are near water as snakes tend to be close to water. Also, know what snakes are in the area. That way, you can let medical workers know the type of snake that bit you.
Know When You Are Likely To Encounter A Snake
In the U.S., you are more likely to run into a venomous snake is higher in the morning and early evening. Snakes are more active during these times of the day. The chance of seeing a snake is higher from April through October. Most snake bites occur during these months. Be especially careful in the fall when snakes are looking for places to hibernate. Since they are on the move, you are more likely to come across one.
Have The Proper Hiking Gear
Wear long pants and thick hiking boots on your hikes. If possible, purchase a 2-way satellite communicator, such as the Garmin inReach. This will let you reach and stay in touch with rescue workers even if you are hiking in remote areas where cell phone reception is non-existent or weak.
If You See a Snake
The first thing that you will want to do if you encounter a snake is to give it some space. The closer you are, the more likely you are to get bitten. So, leave it alone and do not touch or attempt to kill it. Bothering the snake will make it more likely to attack you. Move around the snake if it is blocking the trail. You can also wait until it moves to continue on your hike.
If You Are Bitten
Try to stay calm and don’t panic. Panicking will increase your heart rate, which makes it easier for the venom to spread. Move away from the snake’s striking distance and then sit down. Position yourself so that the wound is at or below your heart level.
Identify The Snake
Try to identify the species of snake. If you can’t tell what kind of snake bit you, then take note of its markings. Snap a photo of the reptile if possible. This will help healthcare workers know what to do to treat you.
Treat The Bite
Remove tight clothing and jewelry before any swelling starts. Next, cleanse the wound, however, don’t flush it with water. Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
After taking care of the wound, slowly hike back to your vehicle. Try to avoid strenuous activity. Drive to the nearest hospital or call for help.
Snake Bite Don’ts
- Don’t apply a tourniquet – A tourniquet can cause more harm than good. It can also result in permanent nerve damage to the limb.
- Suck out the venom– Using a suction device or trying to suck out the toxin does not work and is not safe.
- Cut the area to increase blood flow – Cutting around a bite would not help and it increases the chance of infection.
- Apply an ice pack – Applying a cold pack will reduce circulation to the area and cut off blood flow.
- Drink alcohol or caffeine – Drinking alcohol or caffeine can speed up the rate at which your body absorbs the venom.
Snakes are a part of nature. Encountering a snake does not have to lead to a disaster. Keeping a cool head and knowing what to do when you see a snake can help you move along on your hike without incident. If you are bitten, administering first aid and getting help quickly can reduce the likelihood of complications.