It’s springtime in the South, so watch your step
Our webpage, How to identify snakes in SC, NC & GA, is getting a lot of looks these days, presumably as people are heading to parks and trails for exercise and working in their yards to reduce the cabin fever that comes with stay-at-home orders.
As springtime gets into full swing and with South Carolina’s State Parks set to reopen this Friday on a limited basis, it’s a good time to remind everyone that snakes are a common sight this time of year, especially along park trails.
Park goers should wear close-toed shoes while in the park, officials say, and carry a flashlight while walking in the woods or campground areas. Be cautious while walking through tall grass or over downed logs. These are ideal places for snakes to find shelter.
If you see a snake, look for a way around it without disturbing it. If you are respectful of them, you will have no problems, according to park officials. Copperheads for example, have excellent camouflage and may stay where they are hoping to blend into the leaf litter. If a snake is encountered at a state park campsite, visitors are instructed to call a park ranger.
Snakes are an important part of the unique forest ecosystem at South Carolina’s state parks and are protected by law. In South Carolina, it is illegal to kill any snake on public land. It is a misdemeanor and can carry a fine of $200 or 30 days in jail. (Title 51 – Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Chap. 3, State Parks, Sec. 51-3-145 (B)).
While most snakes in the Carolinas are not venomous, there are three that are: Water Moccasin (or Cottonmouth), Copperhead, and Canebrake Rattlesnake. These snakes are potentially dangerous, but generally try to avoid contact with humans, and will only strike if provoked, experts say.
The following information on what to do and what not to do should you or someone you’re with be bitten by a snake comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What TO DO
- Try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
- Keep the bitten person still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is venomous.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
- Apply first aid if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away.
- Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Tell him/her to stay calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
What NOT TO DO
- Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it (this may put you or someone else at risk for a bite).
- Do not apply a tourniquet.
- Do not slash the wound with a knife.
- Do not suck out the venom.
- Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
- Do not drink alcohol as a pain killer.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages.
If you spot a snake and can easily access your phone, take a photo from a safe distance and send it to the Clemson Cooperative Extension or the SC Department of Natural Resources. Both agencies have staff members who will identify the snake for free.