Monday, November 9, 2009

Snake bites in the wilderness - 101- Tips to Survive a Rattlesnake Bite

Responding to a snake bite appropriately is critical. If medical care is easily accessible, call 911 immediately. Remember if calling from a cell phone, dialing for help will be different by geographic location. Be prepared. Know what your area's emergency help number is for cell phone use. If in a remote area, getting the victim to medical care will be your ultimate objective.

"How to immediately treat a Snake wound"

Step 1

Call 911 immediately. If using a cell phone from a remote location, stay calm and do your best to give your exact location.

Step 2

If available, wash the area with warm water and soap.

Step 3

The area around the site may swell. Clothing or jewelry that would restrict this from happening should be removed.

Step 4

Some snake bite kits have venom suction cups. Placing the cup over the wound can extract roughly 30 percent of the venom. Do not cut or attempt to suck the venom from the wound. This will open the possibility of infection.

Step 5

Keep the limb at or below heart level. Do not elevate the bitten limb.

Step 6

If medical help is more than 30 minutes away, a bandage or strip of fabric (clothing) can be wrapped 2 to 4 inches above the wound. You are not creating a tourniquet, but wrapping the site loose enough to slide a finger underneath the bandage. The purpose is to not cut off the blood flow through veins or arteries, but to slow the venom.

Rattlesnakes are members of the viper family of snakes. Each year there are an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 snake bites with venom injection in the United States. These numbers include rattlesnake bites as well as bites from water moccasins, copperheads and coral snakes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that about five people die every year from the effects of snake venom; learning how to deal with a rattlesnake bite increases your chances of surviving.

Rattlesnakes are capable of delivering large amounts of potent venom. If encountered it should be left alone. A large percentage of envenomations occur when a snake is handled or abused. 

Arizona Black Rattlesnake:

Are almost exclusively found in the mountains and upland areas of Arizona, with only a small part of their population range extending into far west-central New Mexico. Near Tucson, Arizona, these snakes can be found in the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains, generally from the middle to high elevations.

"Tips to aid in the aid of a Rattlesnake Bite"

If you can summon help but cannot reach a hospital:

Step 1

Understand the risk of a rattlesnake encounter. Hiking or camping around boulders, tall grass, leaf piles or logs and spending time in deserts, prairies, forests, mountains and even on beaches make it possible you will come across one or more rattlesnakes. 
There is no working rattlesnake repellent on the market, and the animal may strike  and deliver a bite during the day as well as the night.

Step 2

Remain calm and orient yourself. Have a map of the area on your person at all times and pinpoint your location. Staying calm may slow the spread of snake venom in your body.

Step 3

Call for help. Contact emergency medical personnel by cell or satellite phone right away. Give the operator your map coordinates and mention significant nature markers you can see from your location. This makes it easier for rescuers to find you. Do not move away from your location once first responders confirm that they are en route to you.

Step 4

Clean the wound and wait for help to arrive. Wash the bite area gently with soap and water, cover it with a sterile dressing from a first-aid kit and remain seated until help arrives. Lower the bitten limb so that it is not at or above heart level.

"Hopi Timber Rattlesnake"
The coloration of this species of rattlesnake has evolved to match the light pink sandstone of the Colorado Plateau of northeastern Arizona. The camouflage is so effective that this one almost went unnoticed, even though it was coiled on the patio of a State Park visitor center! Moments after I took this photo with a telephoto lens, the ranger arrived to relocate this particular park resident to a not-so-central location

 Things You'll Need:
  • Area map Cell or satellite phone Water Soap First-aid kit Wrap
  • Area map
  • Cell or satellite phone
  • Water
  • Soap
  • First-aid kit
  • Wrap

    "If You Cannot Summon Help"

Step 1

Remove jewelry from the affected limb. If you are bitten on the hand or arm, make sure to take off rings, watches and wristbands. Because the bite area may swell, you might not be able to remove these items later on and they could cut into your flesh.

Step 2      *Pay special attention to the cautions of sucking venom from the wound*

Suck out as much of the venom as possible with your mouth, but only if you know that it may take you hours to reach help. Make sure your mouth is free of sores. Spit blood and venom onto the ground. Continue this process for about 45 minutes. Walter Howard, professor emeritus of wildlife biology and vertebrate ecology at the University of California at Davis, suggests that you take this course of action only if help is too far away.

Step 3

Apply a loose wrap to the bitten limb. Do not tighten it to constrict blood flow completely, but only to gently compress the area to slow the spread of the venom. Make sure you place it about three inches away from the bite site, between the wound and the heart. If the wrap leads to swelling, loosen it more.

Step 4

Return to your vehicle and try to reach a medical facility. Use your map to chart the fastest course to your car and calmly hike there. Do not wait for the swelling or skin discoloration to set in or worsen. While it is true that rattlesnakes actually inject venom in only an estimated 20 percent of reported attacks, you do not want to wait until you are sure that you are suffering from the venom's effects. Even if you do not believe that a lot of venom was injected, the poison that did make it into your body may cause tissue damage.
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake:

Is one of three species of rattlesnake in North Carolina. Diamondbacks are the largest snakes in the United States, and can grow to be 8 feet long.

  "Rattlesnake FACTS to keep in mind"

These reptiles are primarily nocturnal and crepuscular during the hot summer months and diurnal in spring and on mild or overcast summer days. It hibernates alone or in a group den during the cold months of late fall and winter. Like the other "pit-vipers" (members of the subfamily Crotalinae) this snake uses heat sensing pits (one on each side of the face between the eye and nostril) to detect warm-blooded predators and prey.Rattlesnake feeds on mice, other small mammals, birds, and lizards. It uses venom injected through long, hollow, retractable fangs to kill and begin digesting its prey. Mating takes place in July and August. Young are born in summer.


  1. The medical advice is good, except for two things.

    First, there is absolutely NO scientific evidence suggesting that suction will remove 30% of the venom from a snakebite. There IS scientific evidence suggesting that it can compound the problem. Further, on the off chance that you can make suction work, oral suction is inviting envenomation of the mouth and face, which have much less muscle to absorb the venom. This would be much more likely to be fatal than the original snake bite. DO NOT DO THIS.

    Second, do not apply constricting bands. Even if it's not as tight as a tourniquet, it still, as you mentioned, keeps most of the venom in one area. This is not what you want in the case of a crotaline envenomation. You want the venom to be absorbed by as much muscle as possible before it reaches the bloodstream. Constricting the capillary blood flow to one area will concentrate the venom there, causing increased necrosis. If this concentrated venom leaks into the main bloodstream, the chances for systemic reactions are also increased. DO NOT DO THIS.

    Aside from those two things, good advice. Call 911, remove jewelry, wash the site (if possible), and keep the bite below the heart. If you can't contact help, get moving as slowly and calmly as possible. You've got about six hours before death is usually an immediate concern, assuming anaphylaxis hasn't set in.

  2. And I almost forgot, there's no such thing as a Hopi timber rattlesnake. For a couple of reasons. First, the Hopi rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis nuntius) doesn't live anywhere near the Timber rattlesnake (C. horridus). Their ranges are separated by several hundred miles. Second, It's a (no-longer-recognized) subspecies of the Prairie rattlesnake (C. viridis). Prairies and timbers are two completely different species that don't even look similar. The prairie is actually more closely related to the Arizona Black rattlesnake (C. cerberus) that you have posted above.