Why Snakes Bite People

Snakes bite people out of defense. Most snakes, especially wild ones view people as a threat to their existence. They’re afraid that you’re going to eat them. We, as humans should have a better understanding of snakes and their nature. They’re a vital part of the ecosystem in which they live.

Snakes don’t bite because they’re mean. They don’t even bite because that hate humans. In fact, snakes don’t hate humans, but most go out of their way to avoid them. If you happen to not like snakes and run into one either in the wild or your backyard, it’s best to simply go the opposite direction.

The snake will move on and while some might nest on your property, it’s a rare occurrence. Wild snakes would match rather be in an area where humans aren’t around. A snake bites out of fear for its life and believe it or not, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.

Venomous snakes

With this in mind, it’s important to note that some species of snakes are venomous and therefore dangerous. Knowing what kind of snakes that live in your range will prepare you for what you might run into. Believe it or not, many believe venomous snakes would rather not waste their venom on biting a human. They would rather use their venom on rodent and have a nice meal.

Still, venomous snakes do bite when they feel threatened. Sometimes they’ll hit you with what’s referred to as a dry bite. This is a warning. Rattlesnakes, for example, can control the amount (if any) of venom they release into a potential threat or a meal.

When you think about it, a rattlesnake might give a human two warnings. One is the noise from their rattle with the other being a dry bite. It’s very important not to count on either since rattlesnakes are known to sometimes bite without rattling their tail or delivering a dry bite. If you do, you’re taking a major chance that’s not worth the consequences.

Mandarin rat snake
Although the Mandarin rat snake looks venomous, it's in fact harmless.

Nonvenomous snakes

A nonvenomous snake bite isn’t usually a big deal although there are exceptions. First, most colubrids never deliver a bite that’s harmful but in some cases, secondary bacterial infections aren’t out of the question. This is why we wash our hands with lots of soap and warm water after we get bit.

We can also put some antibacterial ointment on it along with a band-aid to further keep the wound clean. Now, some large boas and many of the larger pythons can deliver a more serious nonvenomous bite. I don’t recommend keeping large snakes such as an anaconda, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons, or Burmese pythons.

Things to keep in mind

There are reasons why these snakes are now sales-restricted. Although most tragedies could have easily been avoided with simple common sense, the reality is that if you keep snakes as pets, you’ll eventually get bit. A bite from a twenty-foot reticulated python is a serious matter.

This is why such snakes are best kept in zoos and institutions that are properly equipped to take care of them. Go with the ball python or even a blood python for that matter. Actually, blood pythons are notoriously nippy but it’s nothing like being bit by a twenty-foot reticulated python.

Accidental food response bite 2
A nonvenomous snake bite.

How to avoid snakes

If you don’t like snakes and are the type that would kill one, it’s best to avoid them altogether. Snakes are an important part of our ecosystem and keep vermin populations in check. It’s not wise to kill snakes. In fact, attempting to kill a snake can be dangerous if it’s venomous.

Most venomous snake bites occur when people try to kill them. This is why I don’t advise killing snakes that you come across in the wild or even on your own property. Here are some ways to keep snakes away from your property and out of your backyard.

  • Keep the grass cut. A well-manicured lawn is particularly attractive to a snake.
  • Cut back shrubbery and pull weeds. Don’t allow weeds to become overgrown.
  • Don’t buy property near standing water. If you live by the water, there’s a better chance of having an encounter with a snake. Keep this in mind when buying the property.
  • Other deterrents. Some people use mothballs by creating a boundary around their property that will supposedly repel snakes. I’ve not found this to be effective but if it makes you feel better, go for it. There are also commercially available snake repellents which are possibly more effective than mothballs.
  • Keep outdoor trash cans sealed. Many snake species eat rodents. Keeping trash in sealed containers outdoors discourage vermin from making themselves at home in your backyard.

On the other hand, this is also where snakes come in handy. If you have a problem with rodents, look at snakes as a free pest control service. Mice and rats spread diseases that can make humans very ill.

Eastern coral snake
A venomous coral snake on a hiking trail in Florida.

How to avoid snakes while hiking

Some people love the outdoors and hiking but fear snakes. I loved hiking the vast mountains found in upstate New York but never was lucky enough to come across a timber rattlesnake. I did however come across an eastern diamondback rattlesnake while walking on a trail to Indian Lake in Anthony, Florida.

It was a very cool day in early spring. Being perfectly honest, I walked right by it within striking range before I saw it. I was very lucky for two reasons. One, the snake’s body was so cool it wasn’t fully awake (but don’t count on this), and two, I was just lucky to come across such a majestic serpent in its natural habitat.

Avoid accidental venomous snakebites while outdoors

What could I have done to avoid getting bit in a situation like this?

While I couldn’t believe I actually came across an eastern diamondback, I should have taken certain precautions because I knew I was in the snake’s range. The answer is simple. I could have watched where I was going. That means looking down to the ground before I continued to walk. Wearing a good pair of heavy-duty knee-high boots isn’t a bad idea either.

Avoid hiking accidents

When you’re hiking either in through the palmetto forests of Florida or up in the Appalachian trail, always watch where you step. To put it another way, look before you leap. Watch for fallen logs that lay across the trail, a snake could potentially be on the other side. Use a long walking stick to aid you in seeing what may lay ahead.

Also, have an understanding of the basic venomous snakebite protocol. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, it’s important to note the exact species so the proper anti-venom is administered. Luckily, in the days where everyone owns a cellphone, one can get a picture of the snake that bit you. 

Fear of spiders

Arachnophobia is considered an unreasonable fear of spiders. While I’ve always loved snake and all sorts of reptiles and amphibians, I had a severe case of arachnophobia when I was a child. Spiders creep me out so I can relate to those who fear snakes.

Still, it’s an irrational fear. All spiders and certain snake species are venomous and some can harm you, that’s certainly true. Still, in most cases getting bit by either is avoidable.

As far as my fear of spiders goes, when I moved to Florida from New York, I quickly realized that I had to get over my fear of spiders because they were everywhere! They also have a much longer season than up north. It’s also fair to say that spiders in Florida are generally larger than those found in New York.

Check out the golden silk orb-weaver for example. I have several of these guys in my backyard every summer and I always manage to forget about them and walk directly through their huge webs.

How I got over my fear of spiders

I simply decided I wasn’t afraid of spiders anymore and it was like turning off a light switch. It’s all about coexistence. Killing them didn’t solve my problems or fear of them. I also handled a few tarantulas although I never owned one.

Just remember, if you live in a range where you know venomous spiders are present, wear a pair of leather gloves when gardening or picking up things around the yard with a lip (in case a black or brown widow is hiding).

For example, buckets, planters, or lawn furniture all have lips that you can’t see what’s under them unless you look. Be aware when picking up things around the property when you can’t see what’s beneath it. The same is also said for snakes.

Conclusion

Live and let live, that’s the best attitude to have. We, humans, are not the only beings on this planet and we have a distinct responsibility. Not only should we avoid needlessly killing other beings of nature, but we should also protect them because they’re an important part of the ecosystem and our world.

Having a fear of snakes and spiders isn’t fun, but one can rise above it and even conquer your fear. Doing so is very empowering. Also, always remember the importance of conservation.

What’re your thoughts of this article? Let us know in the comments section below! 

Why Snakes Bite People

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