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Question About Copperheads


Versius
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My Girlfriend and myself are both from Connecticut enjoying a vacation of Civil War battlesites and beautiful heights. While we have the same poisonous snakes up north they are so rare they're almost non-existant. I've read the books about what to do and what not to do with Snake-bites so I felt ready in case of emergency.

 

While hiking around here at Maryland Heights in Harper's Ferry WV my GF and I had a very close encounter with a Copperhead. As we were finishing our hike consisting of both the short and long loops across the mountain I noticed a bird doing it's broken-wing dance. What I didn't notice was the Copperhead I stepped directly over. My GF noticed it before following me and we both stood there in shock for a moment before he moved off the trail on his own accord.

 

Considering the following facts would we have been ok?

  • We were about 1.5 to 2 miles from the bottom of the trail and the ranger's station in H.F.
  • The trail was only semi-visited
  • I weigh 140lbs (male) and my GF weighs 99lbs.
  • We didn't have our Cel Phone (no reception)
  • I'm an above average runner, she isn't.
  • The Copperhead was about 3' long and was about 1 - 1.5 inches thick.
  • I had clean water, a bandage, a whistle, a knife, and walking sticks.

Please dont make this into a story-time thread, I just want to know from the pool of experienced nature lovers in Maryland, etc how things would have worked out. We both could use some reassurance it's safe to leave the house down there. How do you guys even think about Geocaching when things like this can happen, this is my second time to Maryland and the second time I've had a close call with a Copperhead.

 

Your help and knowledge would be appreciated.

 

Thanks

~Versius

Chris and Valerie

Edited by Versius
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As a boy scout leader I have taken several boys to the hospital after being bit by a copperhead here in Kansas. In all cases the hospital did nothing but monitor them and clean the wound with antiseptic. The doctors have told me that more people had complications from the anti venom than from the actual snake bite. They do however monitor for an allergic reaction in case the breathing passageway becomes obstructed.

 

Also as you have experienced the copperhead snake is fairly non aggressive and will usually not strike unless stepped on directly. Any of the snakes that I have caught to move out of campsites have continued to flee rather than fight even when I was trapping them with the snake hook.

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. The doctors have told me that more people had complications from the anti venom than from the actual snake bite.

 

Also more damage can be done by a well meaning person cutting and sucking out the poison like they remember from old cowboy movies.{cutting arterys, nerves, etc.]

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What is it you want to know? How it would have worked out if you were bitten?

 

If it bit you and if it injected venom you would have gotten very sick and been in a good bit of pain for a few days. Copperheads have a mild venom and the bite of a single snake is almost never fatal. According to the stats I found on the web, out of 400 copperhead bites studied, only 2 were fatal and both victims were bitten by 3 or more snakes at the same time.

 

How do you guys even think about Geocaching when things like this can happen

 

We're in far more danger every time we get into a car or cross a city street. If you are worried about stuff like this, you should never leave the house. But even if you stay home you can die from carbon monoxide poisoning, a fall in the bathtub, or a house fire.

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How do you guys even think about Geocaching when things like this can happen
I'm more worried about ticks then snakes. I come across them often, especially on the top of rocky peaks that caches around here are placed or sunning themselves on a worn trail. I guess that's why I look down often when I hike.
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Speaking of snakes, I was able to snap these great pictures of nature in action. I was very near Avroair's Project X cache at the Splitrock Reservoir in Northern NJ, when I came upon this snake feasting on a live frog. It is neat how a smaller snake can swallow a much larger frog. A snake that was at Splitrock you would expect to see eating a clam, but that is another thread.

 

237c5f0a-4a38-458b-acec-c6ca78f58453.jpg

 

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Edited by KBer
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I was nipped in the ankle last year by a snake, my doctor suspected it was a copperhead. I didn't see the snake as, on trail, I thought it was a different type of injury - stick poke or rock cut. I was lifting my cowardly dog (110 lbs) off a rock and stepped in amongst a rock croping and bushes. I definitely felt the penetration but didn't think much of it. It began to burn significantly once I got home but I thought it was a poison oak rash. Asked my wife to look at it a couple days later and she saw three distinct puncture wounds, doctor confirmed it was a snake bite.

 

The doctor said really nothing to do about it. Outside possibly of some minor muscle damage but other than that no lasting effects.

 

If you are really worried about it - get snake guardz.

Edited by Team Rampant Lion
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Very interesting responses.

 

My GF and I will still keep our eyes to the trail when we hike on vacation but we wont be as worried about getting hit. Consequently for us Ticks are no big thing, we get them, we pop them off. I guess the same casual caution could be said about you guys and snakes.

 

Would getting a good 8" hiking boot protect against most snake bites of these types? Do people actually use these snake guardz in casual hiking? How rare is it for someone to get bit by a snake now a days.

 

Let the storytime commense.

 

~Chris

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If copperheads are the only type of snake you are seeing then your definition of "copperhead" may be too broad. There are copperheads, but there are also watersnakes, corn snakes, milk snakes, and hognose snakes which are often mistaken for copperheads. If you want to be totally sure, carefully turn them over and count the rows of scales behind the anal opening. One row equals copperhead... two overlapping rows means one of the others. [:)]

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How rare is it for someone to get bit by a snake now a days.

 

The number I saw was that there are approximately 6,000 venomous snakebites in the US each year. Some 75-80 percent of these involve intentionally handling the snake and alcohol is often a contributing factor.

 

When you consider the millions of people who hike every year in the US, the odds of getting bitten are extremely low as long as you don't play with the snake.

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I heard you never suck out the venom of another person who got bit. 1. Chances are you won't be able to get it all out. 2. If you have the slightest cut in your mouth guess what, you might as well have been bitten by the snake too. :laughing:

 

Don't even think about that.. don't even make the incision. Take the victim, and if possible the snake to the hospital. Reason for the snake is for ID purposes. So many people don't know a copperhead from a teakettle.

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Survival class; NEVER cut open a snakebite. NEVER suck in the venom. An open wound is prone t5o infection. Venom in the mouth can enter the bloodstream through small abrasions in the mouth; some you may not even be aware of.

The biggest thing with snakebites, at least in the US, are shock and allergic reactions. Antivenin is rarely used, as stated above. IIRC, not all venomous snakes inject poison all the time. alot of rattlesnake bites dont inject any, in mature snakes. In your case, hiking out probably wouldve been the best bet, barring you or her didnt go into shock, or have an adverse reaction. worst case, treat for shock, keep airway open, and send for help.

Count yourself lucky seeing a copperhead though. From what I understand, they arent seen all that much.

Edited by oldsoldier
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A lot has already been said about the topic, but...

There ARE poisonous reptiles out there (and the rattlers in NJ are protected as an endangered species!). Many times the poisonous (or non-poisonous) snakes do "fake strikes" to ward off predators...they may even bite but not deliver venom.

Primarily, the danger is if the animal is stepped on; it will react. Any snakes I have encountered have not been aggressive. Recently, I was very close to a hog-nosed snake, which alerted me to his being there with the responsive "hiss" and pulling his head into a hood. He did not strike...even when I moved him out of the way with my walking stick. While I would not do this with a poisonous snake (except to move it off of a traveled trail), their response would be similar...except for the hiss and hood.

Respect is the real answer. Prevention is a close second. Not that far from my home is a place called Space Farms in Beemerville, NJ. (Space is the family name.....no, "Outer', is not the first!). The owner is allowed by the State to collect rattlesnakes and copperheads locally and use them in his snake pit (for education purposes). They are released every year in the fall. He gets in with the snakes and educates the people about them. Pretty much, short of stepping on one (or being stupid and trying to handle it like Steve Irwin), it is hard to get bit. Like your encounter, about 20+ years ago I stepped OVER one while fishing the Esopus up in NY State...he just looked at me and didn't do anything even though I WAS in his personal space!

Another option to consider for hiking is snake gaiters or snake chaps; they are lightweight (you really don't notice they are on) and offer protection better than that of hiking boots. I bought a pair last year after TRL experienced his "dry bite" last year (mine are made by Snake Guardz; check their website if you want to see what REAL rattlesnakes look like! (6-8+ feet long). The main reason I chose them was to keep my lower legs from being torn up by brambles, stickers, etc. They saved my "butt" last summer though when I encountered an underground yellow jacket nest...got 2-3 actual stings and about 20-30 on the snake gaiters. Yellowjackets are much more likely to "bee" encountered, and, much more deadly than a poisonous snake encounter!

Under the circumstances you relayed, if bitten,the victim should probably sit in a cool area while you went for help. 1-2 miles isn't bad and prevents the poison from being pumped through the system by the exertion of excitement and walking. As stated before, Medical Assistance is #1 - let the doctors (with experience in the field) tell you what you should do. Copperhead bites will probably not involve antivenin. Rattlesnake bites are an entirely different matter. They are more serious and probably will involve antivenin (Crofab seems to be the best and most common from information on the Animal Planet and Discovery channels - "Venom ER"); even with this intervention, tissue and/or nerve damage is possible, and, physical therapy may be necessary. Under no circumstances should the bite be incised or an attempt made to remove the poison.

The best example of what not to do was in the local newspaper about 3-5 years ago. A hiker/camper along the Delaware River got bit after (1) "having a few drinks" and, (2) picking up/handling the snake. I remember the article well because he could not be treated with the antivenin due to an allergy, and, later being wacked with a very large monetary fine (in the thousands of $$!) for messing with an endangered species! Don't mess with the snakes...or the Feds!

Sometimes copperheads emit an odor like cucumber...if you smell cucumber, just be aware of your surroundings...it may be a copperhead.........it may be a cucumber; doesn't happen all the the time, just sometimes.

Also, for a picture of a copperhead, check out the post of 5/17/03 by Zeewire for Osio Rock Ramble, GCA586.

Stay safe, but don't worry about things...enjoy caching and these amazing animals...but always check for ticks!

Hope this was helpful.

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Hey - Kevin and Ken - NO STORIES!? You picked the wrong crew for that.

 

I remember this one time... B)

 

'At Band Camp?'

 

My favorite "Band Camp" snake story was while visiting BrinSnat's "Wildcat Ridge - Hawk Watch" in August a few years back with the Tick Magnet crew. We were so busy looking for the cache we didn't notice we had walked in amongst a nest (?) of cooperheads just molting their skins. They were everywhere - all the places we had been looking they slithered under to get away from us. Having just shed their skin (according to a ranger who was shocked to hear we were walking in the area where they were), they were absolutely beautiful in their colors.

 

933f00a9-5d3c-42b3-b337-277e87461def.jpg

 

f5999d6a-71a9-4613-8122-e0db1a83acdf.jpg

 

And then there was the time... B)

Edited by Team Rampant Lion
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Hey - Kevin and Ken - NO STORIES!? You picked the wrong crew for that.

 

I remember this one time... <_<

 

'At Band Camp?'

 

My favorite "Band Camp" snake story was while visiting BrinSnat's "Wildcat Ridge - Hawk Watch" in August a few years back with the Tick Magnet crew. We were so busy looking for the cache we didn't notice we had walked in amongst a nest (?) of cooperheads just molting their skins. They were everywhere - all the places we had been looking they slithered under to get away from us. Having just shed their skin (according to a ranger who was shocked to hear we were walking in the area where they were), they were absolutely beautiful in their colors.

 

933f00a9-5d3c-42b3-b337-277e87461def.jpg

 

f5999d6a-71a9-4613-8122-e0db1a83acdf.jpg

 

And then there was the time... :P

 

Good photos.. those are both certified by me as copperheads, not teakettles.. :D

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Here is a good example of "anything that looks like a snake and is generally brown in color must be a copperhead"... This one isn't and in fact makes a good pet, if in your opinion any snake can be a good pet. :rolleyes: Although this species is not found in most of the NE it can be found in parts of VA and MD. Anyone willing to guess what it is? BTW this photo is from a cache log and identified in the log as a "Copperhead". This is unfortunate as it will probably discourage a lot of people from visiting the cache which is in a beautiful location.

 

2d51d390-8334-4f7d-bb40-7edcb6f00980.jpg

Edited by edscott
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When I was a junior in high school I got bit by a copperhead. I stepped on him while I was fishing, and he defensively bit me. It penetrated my cowboy boot and stuck my leg, but the bite was dry. We determined this by the fact that 20 minutes later en route to the hospital, I felt fine.

 

I grew up in SW MO, which is pretty much the copperhead capitol of the world. I've seen hundreds of them fishing/hunting/camping/hiking/mowing.

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