Snakes do not usually attack humans unless they are surprised or cornered. Snakes will usually first warn off the human. Only a careless movement will stimulate the snake to strike. Snakes prefer not to bite. Their venom is their precious ammunition for hunting. They will usually give many warnings before wasting venom or risking danger by actually biting a provoker. Warnings include Baring fangs: Opening the mouth wide, displaying teeth.
Making warning noises: hissing, spitting, vibrating vegetation
Getting into strike position: The classic S-shape. Some harmless snakes make false strikes with their mouths closed. Most venomous snakes make a few false strikes before actually biting.
And many that do bite usually don't inject their precious venom ("dry bites").
How many snakes are venomous?
Four family of snakes (Atractaspididae, Colubridae, Elapidae and Viperdae) include species dangerous to humans, a total of 450 species or about 19% of all snake species.. How to avoid snake bites? Snakes do not go looking for people to bite. If we are sensible, we can avoid snake bites. Do not handle snakes: Usually a person is bitten either when holding a snake or attempting to pick it up or to kill it.
Never play with snakes: Remain at a safe distance, no nearer then two snake body lengths away
Do not pick up a "dead" snake: It may only be injured, stunned or playing dead. Even in a dead snake, reflex action can cause the jaws to open and close.
Use common sense and dress properly when going into habitats frequented by snakes. Boots and coarse long trousers should be worn in the wild. Do not put hands or legs in places not first visually examined. As most venomous snakes are nocturnal, light up your path so you can spot the snake.
Treatment of snakebite?
Keep victim calm.
Immediately have the victim lie flat without moving.
Immobilise the bitten limb, using a splint if possible and position it below the level of the heart.
Get the victim to hospital urgently, lying flat.
If possible try to get the description of the snake, so the doctor will know which anti-venom to use. Injecting the wrong anti-venom is not only useless but also will endanger the victim.
Don't incise and suck the wound.
Don't apply an arterial tourniquet.
Don't cool the area of the bite.
Don't try to catch the snake, we do not need another victim.
Don't give the victim alcoholic drinks.
What is venom?
Venom is a poison that one animal injects into another. In snakes, venom is modified saliva. A snake injects poison by biting. Venom is at least 90% protein and most of the protein are enzymes. For more about how venom helps the snake see how do snakes kill.
What is anti-venom? Snake bites are effectively treated by anti-venom. Venom is first extracted from the snake by "milking" it. Minute quantities of this venom are then injected into a large animal like a horse, and the quantity increased slowly until the animal develops antibodies to the venom. Its blood is extracted and the antibodies concentrated and freeze dried for storage. Because each snake species' venom is unique, a different anti-venom is developed for each snake. In the past, people may develop strong allergic reactions to horse proteins in anti-venom but anti-venom is much purer nowadays. In fact there is talk about using sheep instead of horses in the future for development of anti-venom.
More about snakes
- What are snakes?
- Are snakes cold?
- Why are snakes long?
- What do snakes eat? Do they drink?
- How do snakes swallow?
- How do snakes hunt?
- Why and how do snakes kill?
Snake predators and how do snakes protect themselves?
Snake mating, eggs and babies
Where are snakes found?
Fascinating snake adaptations to various habitats
Snake bites and first aid
Snakes in danger: role and conservation and snakes in human culture
Snake records: biggest, smallest, deadliest and more
- More snakes
- More animals
- General snake links and references
Further informations in german can be found here!