It's a "snakey" year for sure. Rain, vegetation, lush landscapes and sunny warm weather are a perfect recipe. As the weather warms up and the flowers bloom, critters get out just like we do to enjoy this beautiful sunshine. Just as trails and parks come in many different shapes and sizes, so do the creatures you might encounter along the way.
Observing an insect or an animal in its own natural habitat can make for a memorable and educational outdoor experience and with just a little knowledge and some common sense, it can be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Snakes. They are out there, make no mistake. Most bites occur between April and October when everyone (including our animal friends) are most active outdoors. According to the USDA, about 25% of snake bites are "dry", meaning no venom is injected (though they still require medical treatment). Snakes may roam during the day or night, depending on conditions, so staying "snake awake" is important always.
- Here is a great website listing venomous snakes by state. Which state has no known venomous snakes? Did you find it?
They do what you do (kids, not snakes). Please remember that how you react to snakes will determine the level of fear your children adopt. According to Penny Whitehouse of Mother Natured,
"If you show negative emotions or high levels of fear, there’s a higher chance your child will develop these feelings about snakes too. You might think this will keep your child safe, when in fact, it could be putting your child at greater risk."
Read more on kids and snake safety here.
Below are some important hints, tips, dos and don'ts to make your outdoor adventures safe and educational when you are logging those miles at school, at commUNITY events, or at sanctioned events, hikes, and adventures.
Precautions & Safeguards
- Leave snakes alone. Most bites occur when people get too close or try to touch or kill a snake. Snakes can strike faster and farther than you might think – some nearly half their body length. If you see a snake in the wild, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet. If you accidentally step too close to a snake, take at least two giant steps backwards to get out of the snake’s reach. (American Hiking Society/AHS)
- Never touch a snake, even if you think it is dead. The fangs of a dead snake can still inject venom. (AHS)
- Wear appropriate over-the-ankle hiking boots, thick socks, and loose-fitting long pants.
- When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
Be alert. Like all reptiles, rattlesnakes are sensitive to the ambient temperature and will adjust their behavior accordingly. After a cold or cool night, they will attempt to raise their body temperature by basking in the sun midmorning. To prevent overheating during hot days of spring and summer, they will become more active at dawn, dusk or night. (Wildlife.ca.gov)
- Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
- Look at your feet to watch where you step and do not put your foot in or near a crevice where you cannot see.
- Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
- If a fallen tree or large rock is in your path, step up on to it instead of over it, as there might be a snake on the other side.
- Be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
- Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags and shoes before use.
- Do not turn over rocks or logs. If you must move a rock or log, use gloves and roll it toward you, giving anything beneath it the opportunity to escape in the opposite direction.
- Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
- Avoid approaching any snake you cannot positively identify as a safe species.
- If you hear the warning rattle, move away from the area and do not make sudden or threatening movements in the direction of the snake.
- Remember rattlesnakes do not always rattle before they strike! (USDA.gov)
- Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
- Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Remember, we are in their home. (Wildlife.ca.gov)
What to do in the event of a snake bite*
Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a cell phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency and make sure that family or friends know where you are going and when you will be checking in.
In the event of a bite:
- Stay calm but act quickly.
- Remove watches, rings, etc., which may constrict swelling.
- Transport the victim to the nearest medical facility.
- Call dispatch via radio or 911.
- Keep the bite below the level of the heart. Do not elevate.
What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite
- DON’T apply a tourniquet.
- DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
- DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
- DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
- DON’T let the victim drink alcohol.
Sources: USDA, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, American Hiking Association
* 100 Mile Club has compiled this snake safety information from the following sources and does not claim to be experts in snake bites or safety in any way. Please do your own research and follow all posted and community rules to maximize safety outdoors.
The most important thing is this: Don't let fear of snakes or critters prevent you from getting outside this spring and summer. With a little knowledge and common sense, you and your runners will have a splendid, healthy, and happy season. Read more about kids and snakes at the two articles cited below from Mother Natured. They are fabulous.
Featured Cover Image: Penny Whitehouse, Sssuper Snake Activities for Kids (Leaf Snake Craft for Kids)