You and your buddies are out on a camping trip reconnecting with nature and your masculinity. You’re taking a day hike to see some ancient Indian hieroglyphics, when all of sudden you feel the acute pain of two razor sharp fangs entering your flesh. You’ve just been bitten by a snake. Do you know what to do?
Just the sight of a slithering snake can send a shiver down even the manliest spine. And with good reason-with just one nibble, and in only a few hours, these feetless, cold-blooded serpents can snuff out your life. While only 9-15 people in the United States die every year from snake bites, if you don’t know how to treat them correctly, you or your loved one could become part of those statistics. Knowing how to deal with snakes and snakebites is essential man knowledge.
The best way to u201Ctreat — a snakebite is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. So in Part 1 of the Art of Manliness’ Guide to Snakes, we’ll give you a dossier on all the bad boys you need to look out for.
In Part 2, we’ll discuss ways to avoid becoming some snake’s snack and how to treat a bite if you do get bitten.
Know Your Enemy
If you were a Boy Scout, you were probably taught an old mnemonic to help you identify venomous snakes:
Red and black, friend of Jack. Red and yellow, kill a fellow.
Or in other words, if a snake has adjacent red and black colors on its skin, it’s not venomous. If red and yellow are adjacent, that snake is venomous. But as a man, you’re past simple maxims. You want to know how to identify and name a snake. You want to know the habits of your nemeses. So, here’s a description of the various poisonous snakes found in North America and around the world.
Know Thine Enemy: Coral snakes are easy to spot by their distinctive coloring. They have alternating, red, yellow, and black bands. Did you get that? Red and yellow are touching each other, meaning this bad boy is poisonous. Be on the look out. There are counterfeit corals that have alternating red, black, and yellow bands. These aren’t poisonous. Coral snakes are shorter than other venomous snakes. They average about 40 inches and have smaller mouths and fangs.
Their hideout: Corals are found in the southern and eastern United States, and in other places around the world. They can usually be found slithering in dry areas with lots of shrubs. They frequently spend their time underground or buried under leaf litter, and don’t pop out to say hello very often. You’ll see them most frequently after it rains or during breeding season. There are also some aquatic species that loiter in your favorite swimming hole.
How mean are they? They’re not aggressive or prone to biting, but if they do bite-watch out. Their venom takes longer to deliver, so when they bite, they hold on and won’t let go.
Rattlesnakes are easy to identify because, well, they have a rattle at the end of their tail. When threatened, the rattlesnake shakes its rattle as a warning to his would-be nemeses. Luckily for us, it’s a pretty damn loud warning; its peak frequency is equivalent to that of an ambulance siren. Did you ever wonder what a rattlesnake’s rattle was made of? Yeah? Me too. It’s basically composed of modified scales that slough off from the tail. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin, a new segment is added. When the snake shakes its tail in the air, the segments rattle against each other. Contrary to popular belief you can’t tell a rattlesnake’s age from counting the number of rattle segments; while they do add more segments on a regular basis, they also lose them during travels. Word of warning: if the rattle gets soaked from wet weather, it will no longer emit its noisy warning. So tread lightly in those conditions.
Several varieties of rattlesnakes exist and their habitats range from Canada to South America. The diamondback rattlesnake, the mojave rattlesnake, the sidewinder rattlesnake, and the timber rattlesnake are three species common to the United States
The Diamondback Rattlesnake
Know Thine Enemy: The different species of rattlesnakes have varied colorings, but all can be identified by their skin’s telltale diamond pattern. Most diamondbacks are about 3.5-5.5 feet long, although the Eastern diamondbacks, the biggest of the bunch, have been found in the 7 ft range.
Their hideout: Diamondbacks are generally found along the southern border of the United States, from Florida to Baja California and into Mexico. Rattlesnakes like to sun themselves and come out in the early morning or afternoon to bask in the sun’s rays. You therefore often find them sunning themselves on rocky ledges. While not typically adept climbers, species like the eastern diamond back have been found 32 ft off the ground. Some are excellent swimmers as well; eastern diamondbacks slither for miles in-between islands in the Florida Keys.
How mean are they? Some diamondbacks will retreat if given a chance. But often they will stand their ground and may strike repeatedly. They can strike from a distance up to 2/3 their body size and strike faster then the human eye can see, so stay as far away as possible. They have some of the fiercest venom of any snake; victims can die within hours of being bitten.
The Mojave Rattlesnake
Know Thine Enemy: Generally 3-4.5 ft long, it has grayish diamond shape markings on its back like the diamondback, but it’s overall coloration is more green than brown.
Their hideout: The mojave rattlesnake primarily lives in the desert of the southwestern United States, so be on the look out for it when you’re riding a burro down the Grand Canyon. They are common in wide expanses of desert and can often be found near scrub brush. They hibernate during the winter.
How mean are they? Although there isn’t scientific date to back it up, mojaves have a reputation for being quite aggressive, especially towards people.
The Sidewinder Rattlesnake
Know Thine Enemy: The sidewinder gets its name from its trademark sideways locomotion. The reason they do this is to reduce the amount of contact they have with the hot desert sands and to increase their movement’s efficiency. Just watching this thing move puts you on notice that it’s a killing machine. Smaller than its rattling cousins, the sidewinder usually is 1.5-2 feet long. The sidewinder is light in color with darker bands on its back. In addition to its trippy sideways movement, evolution has given the sidewinder another killer advantage: it can survive in the desert without a single drop of water. They get all the water they need from the prey they devour. That’s right. When a sidewinder sees you walking along, you’re not only lunch, but also a canteen. Watch out.
Their hideout: These snakes can be found in the desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. During the cooler months (about December to February) the sidewinder is nocturnal. They are diurnal the rest of the year.
How mean are they? Their venom is weaker than their cousins, but still can cause a serious health threat. Tread lightly.