Snake Bite (Ophitoxaemia)

Venomous Species in Arkansas
Comparative Risks
Composition of Snake Venom
Potency of Snake Venom
Purpose of Snake Venom
Avoiding a Bite
What To Do If Bitten
What NOT To Do If Bitten
About Antivenom
Nonvenomous Snake Bites

Venomous Species in Arkansas

Species Behavior of a Bite Statistics (from eMedicine)
Texas Coralsnake
(Micrurus tener tener)
Venom is highly neurotoxic, blocking nervous system communications. It is possible for a bite to incur very little localized pain or swelling, yet still be life-threatening. Heart, lung, and kidney functions may begin to fail as the venom is absorbed into the blood stream. Respiratory support may be required for up to a week and victims may suffer persistent weakness for weeks to months. In the US, Coralsnakes are responsible for less than 1% of venomous snake bites in the US. Most people bitten by coralsnakes are handling them intentionally. Probably less than 20 bites occur per year (though 61 alleged bites were reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 1998). No deaths related to Coralsnake bites have been reported in the US since Coralsnake antivenom became available. Before that time, the estimated case fatality rate was 10%.
S. Copperhead
(Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix)
Venom is hemotoxic. Swelling occurs at the site of bite and surrounding area. Although painful, fatalities from a bite are extremely rare. Venom is less potent than other venomous snakes in Arkansas. In the US, Copperheads are responsible for about 25% of venomous snake bites. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has reported no mortality from Copperhead envenomation since its first annual report in 1983.
W. Cottonmouth
(Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma)
Venom is highly hemotoxic. Intense swelling, pain, and tissue destruction occurs at the site of the bite. Severe bites on extremities (fingers or toes) may result in permanent damage, disfigurement, or even loss of digits. In the US, Cottonmouth are responsible for about 10% of venomous snake bites. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) has reported no mortality from Cottonmouth envenomation since its first annual report in 1983.
W. Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
(Crotalus atrox)
Venom is highly hemotoxic. A severe bite from a larger snake could prove very serious. In addition to swelling and pain at the site of the bite, system-wide failures (ex: heart, lungs, kidneys) may occur. Rattlesnakes (includes all species) cause about 75% of all bites by identified venomous snakes in the US. Dry bites, in which there is no envenomation, occur in as many as 50% of strikes. An average of 5.5 deaths per year occur as a result of snake bite in the US, most of these after Rattlesnake bites.
Timber Rattlesnake
(Crotalus horridus)
Venom is highly hemotoxic. Symptoms are similar to that of a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake bite. See statistics for the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake.
W. Pygmy Rattlesnake
(Sistrurus miliarius streckeri)
Venom is hemotoxic. Due to the relatively small size of this snake, fatalities from a bite are essentially unknown. Symptoms are similar to that of a Copperhead bite. See statistics for the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, but be cautious of over-interpretation... Pygmy Rattlesnakes are one of the smallest species of Rattlesnakes and unable to deliver a deadly dose of venom. I suspect that only a very small number of reported bites in the US can be attributed to this snake.

(If you've been doing your math, you'll notice that the statistics for snake bite actually accumulate to more than 100%. This doesn't make sense to me either, but I suspect there is a lot of fudge when it comes to that little word "about.")

Here is my list for seriousness of a bite (from least serious to most serious): Copperhead / Pygmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake / Coralsnake, Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake. Please note that this assumes a typical bite from a typical-sized animal on a typical adult. There are obviously many, many variables that may affect the behavior of a snake bite, such as:

  • Species (and even geographic location) of snake involved.
  • Size of snake.
  • Amount of venom injected.
  • Size and overall health of bite victim.
  • Location and depth of bite.
  • Physiology of bite victim.
  • Reaction of bite victim: panics, remains calm, delays trip to hospital, etc.

Comparative Risks

The following table is a compilation of statistical data (from eMedicine) comparing fatalities per year due to environmental hazards in the US.

Environmental Hazard Frequency Fatalities per Year
Drowning N/A 6,500
Burns / Smoke Inhalation 2.2 million 5,000
Heat Exhaustion / Heat Stroke N/A 175-200 (with ave. temps.)
Lightning N/A 75-300
Bee, Wasp Stings 1 million 30-120
Dog Bites / Attacks 1-3 million 10-20
Snake Envenomation 7,000 5.5
Spider Envenomation N/A 4
Scorpion Envenomation 14,000 0.33
Lizard Envenomation (Gila Monster) N/A 0

Males are more commonly bitten by snakes than females with 50% of all bites occurring in the age group 18-28 years.

If you are a "betting man", you might like to know your Odds of Death Due to Injury (including death due to snake bite), brought to you by the National Safety Council.

An accurate measure for the risk of accidental snake bite is unavailable. It is likely that the vast majority of snake envenomations are due to intentional handling or harassment of snakes. While it may seem inconceivable to some, many people actually keep venomous snakes as "pets." Doing so puts the keeper and their family at great risk.

Composition of Snake Venom

In general, snake venom will fall into 1 of 2 general classes:

  • Neurotoxic - Affects the nervous system.
  • Hemotoxic - Affects the circulatory system.

But in truth, snake venom is a highly complicated concoction of modified saliva. Each species of snake (and sometimes individuals within a species) will have their own unique formula. In essence, you can think of snake venom as a mixture of "digestive juices."

Component Action
Anticoagulants Prevent blood from clotting.
Cardiotoxins Variable effects that target heart function.
Cytolysins Destroy white blood cells.
Enzymes Facilitate chemical reactions.
Hemolysins Destroy red blood cells.
Hemorrhagins Destroy capillary walls causing bleeding.
Neurotoxins Block the transmission of nerve signals to muscles.
Proteolysins Dissolve cells and tissues.
Thromboses Promote blood clotting.

Potency of Snake Venom

The potency of snake venom is typically determined by conducting an LD50 test. In essence, this test is conducted by injecting a large number of mice with measured amounts of venom. The measured dosage of venom that kills 50% of the mice in a sample (within 24 hours) is the "lethal dose" (thus LD50). The unit is milligrams of venom per kilogram of mouse (mg/kg). The results will vary greatly depending upon the particular methods:

  • Subcutaneous - Venom is injected under the skin.
  • Intramuscular - Venom is injected into a muscle.
  • Intravenous - Venom is injected directly into a vein.
  • Intraperitoneal - Venom is injected into the abdominal cavity.
  • Average Venom Yield - Typical amount of (dry) venom that is obtained through "milking."

The following table contains information compiled from a variety of sources:

Species Subcutaneous (mg/kg) Intramuscular (mg/kg) Intravenous (mg/kg) Intraperitoneal (mg/kg) Average Venom Yield (mg)
Texas Coralsnake
(Micrurus tener tener)
1.3 N/A 0.3 0.118 3.0-5.0
Southern Copperhead
(Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix)
25.6 20 10.9 10.9 40.0-75.0
Western Cottonmouth
(Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma)
25.8 N/A 2.044 4.844 80.0-170.0
Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake
(Crotalus atrox)
18.5 20 2.72 5.588 175.0-600.0
Timber Rattlesnake
(Crotalus horridus)
3.1 N/A 2.107 2.272 75.0-210.0
Western Pygmy Rattlesnake
(Sistrurus miliarius streckeri)
24.3 N/A 12.59 6.822 12.0-35.0

There have been many lists compiled for the most "venomous" or most "dangerous" snakes in the world. Regardless of which list you look at, none of the naturally occurring snakes in Arkansas are ever listed higher than about halfway up. For a sense of comparison, the W. Diamond-backed Rattlesnake is usually listed within the top 2/5ths while the Copperhead is usually near the very bottom. The top spots are typically reserved for Cobras, Mambas, Sea Snakes, and several species of elapids from Australia. In comparison to other parts of the world, the venomous snakes found in Arkansas are "child's play."

Answering a question like "Which of these snake is the most venomous?" requires a lot of assumptions. As a case in point, consider the Coralsnake. The venom itself is highly toxic (drop-for-drop), but then consider the very low venom yield. Of course, a person might really be asking: "Which of these snakes is the most dangerous?" This is an entirely different kind of question. We would then have to factor in a snake's anatomy, disposition, habitat, abundance, etc. Coralsnakes, for example, are relatively small snakes with short fangs and small mouths. As such they are ill-equipped to deliver defensive bites on a human. They are also entirely uninclined to want to bite. In fact, there have been known cases where children have found Coralsnakes and played with them for long periods of time without a sustaining a bite. As far as habitat and abundance goes, Coralsnakes spend the vast majority of their time underground or debris and seem to occur in small numbers. Even finding one is a rare event. But beyond this, as if the "answer" wasn't complicated enough, we'd have to assume that a human would react to a bite in a similar fashion as a mouse!

As a side note, Coralsnakes don't even eat mice! They eat other snakes, and so we can expect that their venom is targeted for this particular kind of prey. For a Coralsnake, a small dose of high-potency venom might be just the thing to immobilize smaller snakes (which may have some natural immunities to snake venom).

There is no scientific evidence that would indicate that baby snake venom is any more potent than an adult's. For the same species, small and large animals will have (essentially) the same venom potency. The differences, if any exists, can almost assuredly be attributed to individual variation rather than age-related variation. Since a larger snake can inject a larger dose of venom than a smaller snake of the same species, it is the larger one that is certainly the most dangerous.

Purpose of Snake Venom

When I ask people, "What is the main purpose of snake venom?", the answer I almost unanimously get back is, "for defense" or sometimes even "so they can bite people!" This kind of answer tells me that most people don't understand at all what a snake's life is like...they've probably never even thought about it.

First of all, venom is very expensive, both from a physiological and from an evolutionary standpoint. This, however, is not to say that some organisms don't have fantastical defensive adaptations, it is just to say that snake venom didn't evolve for this purpose. The fact is, even with highly toxic venom, snakes are often preyed upon by other organisms. Even relatively large Timber Rattlesnakes, for example, have been known to fall prey to coyotes, bobcats, hawks, and even skunks.

So now back to the question... The main purpose of snake venom is for procuring food. For any predator, there is always a danger of injury or even death associated with hunting and taking down prey. Given that snakes often take down relatively large food items and eat infrequently, the dangers are real. A mishandled rat or squirrel could turn upon a snake and inflict life-threatening injuries with their sharp teeth and claws. Venom happens to be an effective tool for such a situation: a quick strike and release, track the prey to the location it finally succumbs to the venom, and the snake has a meal that's ready to eat. The risk of any counterattack is minimized.

For some snakes, it is simply "grab-and-eat", for others constriction, and for others still it's venom. Many people don't realize that their distinction of a "good" snake verses a "bad" snake rests solely upon eating habits! Imagine if my ideas about a person where based upon whether they ate with a fork or a spoon?

As a final note (and this should come as no surprise), snake venom can at times be used effectively as a defensive weapon. For the vast majority of venomous snakes, I believe this is merely an accidental advantage...secondary to the real purpose: procuring food. The exception to this rule may be Spitting Cobras (found in Africa). But if we consider closely the true adaptation for defense in these snakes, it is primarily the placement of the hole-openings on the fangs. I believe to consider the whole apparatus--venom, venom glands, venom ducts, fangs, etc.--as adaptive for defense in these snakes would be misguided.

Avoiding a Bite

The more I come to understand snakes and people, the more I am convinced that all snake bites result from human stupidity! (Well, okay, 95% of snake bites in the USA...) This isn't to say that only stupid people get bitten...even the smartest person in the world may have a moment of stupidity, and, of course, it only takes a moment for a snake bite to occur. As a professional who works regularly with venomous snakes, my motto is "think twice, act once." With venomous snakes always in the lab, the danger is in the routine. For nonprofessionals, it may be difficult to believe that changing a snake's water bowl in captivity incurs more risk of snake bite than 100 trips to the field, but it's true. This, perhaps more than any other reason, is why keeping venomous snakes by nonprofessionals is highly ill-advised.

The following list should almost completely eliminate your chances of getting bitten by a snake, even if you spend a great deal of time outdoors:

  • Avoid touching (with your hand, boot, stick, etc.) any snake you can't 100% identify as nonvenomous.
    • This covers situations where you might be inclined to try to kill a snake "with a very long stick," or perhaps attempt to capture or move a snake "in a very safe way." In short, if you are close enough to mess with a snake, it is close enough to mess with you! As a side note, I always use snake tongs and a plastic bucket to capture, move, and manipulate venomous snakes. I never use my hands, and snakes have no problem biting through pillow sacks!
  • Wear the right attire for the situation.
    • This covers situations where you might be inclined to walk through thick grass in flip-flops, go wadding barefoot through a creek, or wear shorts on a nature hike through rough terrain. If you should stand on or kick a snake, even leather or rubber boots should not be expected to stop a bite (although in all likelihood they will).
  • Use a flashlight at night.
    • This includes hiking trails, campsites, and even your front yard! Many snakes become more active at night, especially around dusk and dawn during the warmest parts of summer.
  • Watch where you put those hands and feet.
    • This especially relates to picking up objects, such as logs, rocks, pieces of tin, etc. Climbing in and around brush or rock piles is not advised. Surprisingly enough, snakes do not seem to frequent caves. By this, I mean caves that are sufficiently large to crawl around in. It seems that snakes (at least in Arkansas) select smaller holes and crevices. This may help to reduce their risk of predation by larger predators, especially during the winter months when they become sluggish.

It may be somewhat comforting for you to know that the naturally occurring venomous snakes in Arkansas are entirely uninclined to want to bite. As a person who works with venomous snakes in the field, on several occasions I (and colleagues of mine) have stepped within inches of a snake, caught a boot-tip under the coil of a snake and half-flipped it over, and even stepped directly on top of a snake. Mostly, these are Timber Rattlesnakes (which almost never rattle!) and are actions that have occurred purely by accident, I assure you! Yet, in none of these instances has anyone sustained a bite, or for that matter was the snake even known to strike. From the perspective of a snake, it must be thinking: Be still, rely on your camouflage to not be seen, survive the encounter. In nature, it's all about survival. If a snake thinks that striking will increase its chances of survival, then it will strike. In most cases, however, snakes will use their "invisibility" to not even be seen or will try to crawl away in a hurry.

Changing the habitat around your property is the best method for reducing the number of snakes where you live. This means keeping your lawn well-tailored, sheds and barns cleared of clutter, and debris (such as old pieces of tin and loose rocks) removed. Essentially what this will do is give snakes (and their favorite prey, mice!) less preferred maybe they will move on somewhere else. But even so, regardless of whether you live in the country or downtown Little Rock, there are likely to be some snakes around.

No known "anti-snake" spray, chemical, or barrier is known to be effective in deterring snakes. There are even some brand-name products on the market, but these simply do not work. In fact, some anti-snake measures can be extremely harmful. As a case in point, I am aware of an institution in Arkansas that received complaints from residents about a snake in a creek that was apparently terrorizing the neighborhood. The solution by employs was to dump large quantities of rat poison into the creek to kill the snake. This, of course, killed everything else in the creek, too: fish, crayfish, insects, etc. And apparently no consideration was given to the fact that this poisoned water would eventually flow downstream where children were known to swim and wade! All of this, and the accompanying bad press, could have been avoided simply by asking the advice of people in-the-know. Oh, and by the way, the snake in question turned out to be a completely harmless watersnake.

Hopefully, this story has illustrated the point that people often kill snakes needlessly out of ignorance and fear, without any consideration of their actions. Please remember that destroying or capturing any wild animal may have consequences and repercussions to the delicate balance of nature that we cannot fully understand.

Chemical Deterrents are Not Advocated


What To Do If Bitten

With the assumption that you know you've been bitten by a venomous snake, what to do is actually more simple than people realize. In fact, here is a picture of my entire snake bite kit:

It's easy to carry, almost always with me, and it's not likely to cause damage beyond the snake bite itself. For those of you who aren't quite with me yet, here's the message: find your car keys, get in your car, get to a hospital. That's it! Beyond this, you are simply complicating matters.

But let's suppose you are one who likes to complicate matters... It can't hurt anything to apply basic first aid procedures: stay calm, gently wash the wound with soap and water (if available), keep the site of the bite at the same level as your heart, loosen or completely remove restrictive clothing, shoes, and jewelry around the wound.

For Coralsnake bites only, it may be beneficial to wrap the bite area with an Ace bandage, just as you would a sprain. Leave it on until you are given instructions at the hospital.

No "snake bite kit" (whether of the home-remedy kind or sold on the market) has been shown to provide any benefits for snake bite victims. In fact, the majority of these are known to cause more harm than good. Please read the next section for more details.

At the hospital, you may find that the doctors and nurses have treated very few (if any!) snake bite victims. As such, it is in your best interest to suggest that they consult a Poison Control Center, such as the Arkansas Poison and Drug Information Center (emergency: 1-800-222-1222). In almost all cases, only the symptoms of the bite will be treated. Antivenom should only be administered for very severe bites.

What NOT To Do If Bitten

Although the list is long, and includes a vast array of traditional and home-remedy solutions, suffice it to say that if it isn't mentioned as something to do above, then don't do it!

Method to Avoid Reasoning
DO NOT physically exert yourself beyond what is necessary to get to a hospital. Physical activity will increase your heart rate and cause the venom to spread through your body more quickly.
DO NOT eat or drink anything. This will facilitate a more accurate diagnosis at the hospital. Of course, common sense should tell you that if you are out in the middle of nowhere fluids will be necessary to avoid dehydration.
DO NOT drink alcohol. Alcohol thins the blood, impairs judgment, overworks the kidneys, and stresses the entire body. Do I really need to explain why these things are bad for snake bites?
DO NOT take any kind of medication. Medications of any kind, including aspirin and vitamins, may cause unexpected reactions with the venom. Also, many medications, such as aspirin and other pain-killers, thin the blood and speed up the heart.
DO NOT "cut-n-suck", or cut, or apply oral suction to the wound. Self-surgery (i.e. cutting yourself open) is highly dangerous. An incision that is too deep or misguided could sever nerves (causing permanent paralysis in appendages) or cause massive bleeding. Oral suction or the use of another suction device (as in pellet-shaped snake bite kits) provides inadequate suction to extract venom. In fact, strenuous oral suction can prove physically exhausting and stressful, thus actually worsening the effects of the bite. Evidence suggests that the application of a product called The Extractor does NOT provide any benefits, and may actually cause worse necrosis at the site of the bite.
DO NOT apply hot or cold packs, or ice. Heat may cause blood to flow into the snake bite area, thereby causing the venom to spread more rapidly. On the other hand, cold may reduce the diffusion of the venom too much, thereby causing greater localized tissue damage.
DO NOT apply constrictions of any kind, even the oft-times recommended tourniquet. Constrictions of any kind, even shoes or watches, may stop adequate blood flow. Even the tissues around a snake bite require oxygen! While the proper application of a tourniquet will not stop blood flow, in such a stressful situation it is difficult to apply and monitor a tourniquet. As the area around the wound swells, the tourniquet would require almost constant adjustments. In short, tourniquet are too complicated, too dangerous, and don't work anyway.
DO NOT apply electric shock of any kind. The theory behind this is that the electric shock will denature (destroy) the proteins that make up the venom, thereby reducing its harmful effects. While proteins in the venom may in fact be denatured, the greater damage caused by high voltages is without question. And what exactly is the prescribed dosage of electrical shock for snake bite? One shock of 12V every 30 minutes? Three shocks, twice a day?
DO NOT kill or capture the offending snake to bring with you to the hospital. This wastes valuable time and may put you at great risk of being bitten again (even a dead snake can bite!). Your symptoms alone will indicate to the hospital staff whether or not the bite was by a venomous snake and whether or not the bite was "hot" (venom was injected). Should antivenom need to be administered, it is polyvalent and will thus counteract the effects of any naturally occurring snake in Arkansas.
DO NOT waste your money purchasing a "snake bite kit." It amazes me that stores (such as Wal-Mart and others) still sell the pellet-shaped snake bit kits. At best, they are known to provide no benefits (other than peace of mind?). At worst, they provide the tools and instructions for someone to really hurt himself/herself. I honestly don't believe they have been updated since the 1920's! In addition, (as stated above) the use of a product called The Extractor is not currently advocated.

Snake Bite Kits are Not Advocated

Coghlan's Snake Bite Kit Coghlan's Snake Bite Kit Coghlan's Snake Bite Kit Cutter HI-Lo Suction Snake Bit Kit Cutter HI-Lo Suction Snake Bit Kit Cutter HI-Lo Suction Snake Bit Kit Sawyor First Aid Kit: The Extractor Pump Sawyor First Aid Kit: The Extractor Pump Cutter HI-Lo Suction Snake Bit Kit Sawyor First Aid Kit: The Extractor Pump Sawyor First Aid Kit: The Extractor Pump Sawyor First Aid Kit: The Extractor Pump Venom-X: Anti-venom Cleanser Venom-X: Anti-venom Cleanser

About Antivenom

Antivenoms, in general, come in two varieties:

  • Monovalent - Effective against one venom.
  • Polyvalent - Effective against two or more venoms.

For snake bite occurring in the United States, these are likely choices for treatment:

Antivenom Origin Company Country Species
CroFab (Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab) Ovine Savage Laboratories USA * Crotalus atrox, * Crotalus adamanteus, * Crotalus scutulatus, * Agkistrodon piscivorus, Crotalus horridus, Crotalus viridis helleri, Crotalus molossus molossus, Agkistrodon contortrix, Sistrurus miliarius
Antivenin (Crotalidae) Polyvalent Equine Wyeth USA * Crotalus adamanteus, * Crotalus atrox, * Crotalus durissus terrificus, * Bothrops atrox, Crotalus sp., Sistrurus sp., Agkistrodon contortrix, Agkistrodon piscivorus, Agkistrodon halys, Bothrops sp., Crotalus durissus, Agkistrodon bilineatus, Lachesis mutus
Antivenin (Micrurus Fulvius) North American Coralsnake Equine Wyeth USA * Micrurus fulvius fulvius, * Micrurus fulvius tenere

Species identified by an asterisk (*) indicate venoms used in the actual production of the antivenom. In addition, a company in Mexico, Instituto Bioclon, produces two equine-derived antivenoms that may be used to treat snake bite from North American species: CORALMYN for coralsnake envenomations and ANTIVIPMYN for pitviper envenomations.

The production of antivenom involves hyperimmunizing ungulates (sheep or horses) by injecting them over time with increasing quantities of snake venom. Blood is then drawn and fractionated to refine and concentrate the serum globulins. Add a couple of preservatives, such as Phenol and thimerosal, some distiled water, and you have an antivenom. The antibodies produced by the ungulates to combat the toxins in the venom now become the active ingredients in the antivenom.

Antivenom should only be administered by trained professionals for very severe snake bites. Some people have a severe allergy to antivenom (especially those derived from horses) and a skin test is usually standard procedure. Without using caution, the antivenom itself could potentially send someone into life-threatening anaphylaxis! Depending upon the severity of the bite, treatment may require 4 to 18 vials or more. Most antivenoms have no maximum dosage; only it is advised to use the minimum dosage necessary to counteract the effects of the venom.

The cost of antivenom will vary according to the market, but given that it is expensive to produce and generally in low demand, the price PER VIAL is likely to be $500-1000! (Remember that several vials are typically required to treat a bite.)

Due to the cost, relatively short shelf life, and concerns over allergic reactions, few snake researchers or hobbyists maintain their own antivenom stockpiles. For native species, antivenom is usually available quite readily, but the same cannot be said of exotic species. As part of their snake bite emergency plan, those keeping exotics usually research the location of the nearest available antivenom. Antivenom banks have become popular as a way for keepers to divvy up the costs of maintaining antivenoms for exotic species.

Nonvenomous Snake Bites

A person bitten by a nonvenomous snake can expect nothing more than a mild to moderate "pinch" from the bite. The sharp, stinging sensation associated with most venomous snake bites will be absent (think red wasp sting, only worse). The bite may be a lightning-fast strike and release or a "chomp and chew", depending upon the species and mood of the snake. The bite wound will typically consist of 4 curved lines of tiny pinpricks. These correspond with the rows of sharp, pointy teeth. The bite may bleed more than one might expect, due to the sharpness of the teeth and anticoagulant properties of the snake saliva. In some cases, the bite area may mildly itch. I've found that Watersnake and Gartersnake bites seem to cause more of an itching sensation than other snakes.

A nonvenomous snake bite should be treated just as you would any other kind of skin abrasion: wash the wound with mild soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage.

Although turtles and some other reptiles are known to carry Salmonella, I am aware of no cases of transmission from snakes to humans. I am, however, aware of just a couple of reported cases of tetanus poisoning associated with snake bites. These cases have been reported in other parts of the world where inoculations against tetanus are rare and the bites in question involved the deep puncture wounds of venomous snakes. In other words, the risk of transmitting any disease associated with nonvenomous snake bites is virtually zero. The same also holds true for venomous snake bites, but there is definitely a greater risk of secondary infection with venomous snake bites.

I have been bitten by nonvenomous snakes hundreds of times. If it is convenient to treat the wound, I may wash it off, but most of the time I do absolutely nothing. I have never had a nonvenomous snake bite become infected or cause problems in any way.

Bites From Various Nonvenomous Species

Baby Midland Water Snake


  • According to some reports (here), US production of Coralsnake antivenom will halt in 2008. ~ kaptainkory October 11, 2007, at 06:52 AM
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