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  1. #1

    Default Hikers bit by venomous snakes

    How common is a venomous snake bite on the AT and at shelters/camping areas?

    Yesterday on the approach trail to Springer a rattlesnake was laying beside the trail in some grass. He didn't rattle until my foot went down inches from him. I've stepped right over snakes more than once because I never saw them, but Mr. Rattler left me concerned. It could have easily turned into a bite.

    How common is a bite for a thru or section hiker? What should you do if bitten? I see only two choices: 1) Sit down, relax, and call for help, or 2) Walk to a road. This has been discussed at whiteblaze before but I never found satisfactory answers.

  2. #2

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    Iím curious as well. My guess is not very often, but I obviously have no data. According to Wikipedia, only a handful of people die from snakebites every year out of 7,000-8,000 bites - and thatís nation wide. Considering the number of people that hike the trail...

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List..._United_States

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    I see so many rattlesnakes on my backpacking trips it's getting ridiculous but then I seem to attract them for some reason. I wanted to be a herpetologist when I was a kid so maybe that's the reason.

    I can't imagine how hikers don't get bit because I see so many snakes but I rarely ever hear of such a thing. I think most bites occur around peoples homes. I guess hikers are generally much more observant, i.e. they want to live to hike another day.

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    very rare...........

    even in a Park with 10 million visitors annually, there is rarely a snake bite...

    most bites come by way of the person "playing" with the snake or otherwise harassing it........

    in 20 years of being in news, i really cant think of maybe more than one bite out in the woods...

    however, i have covered a few bites from people who use them in their church services...

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    We saw a pretty timber rattlesnake a couple weeks ago on Cove Mtn Trail, which hugs the GSM park boundary between Sugarlands and Wears Valley. This guy was curled up right in the middle of the trail minding his own business when I came stomping along. I think I was within 4 feet of him when I suddenly reversed course. From a safer distance we took pictures. He never moved or said a word.

    So then it's time for us to move on. The trail was fairly wide, maybe 6'-8', so I figured I'd skirt by on the edge. I took just one step forward, and that set him off. He started buzzing that tail and quickly moved to the taller weeds on the side of the trail, where he buzzed continuously as we passed by.

    Before we left the scene, he introduced himself. He said his name was "Rutherth", and asked if we knew where to find "Thee-thee." Finally figured out that Rupert was hoping to meet Tipi. I guess it's hard to pronounce T's and P's with a forked tongue.

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    very rare...........

    even in a Park with 10 million visitors annually, there is rarely a snake bite...

    most bites come by way of the person "playing" with the snake or otherwise harassing it........

    in 20 years of being in news, i really cant think of maybe more than one bite out in the woods...

    however, i have covered a few bites from people who use them in their church services...

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post

    Before we left the scene, he introduced himself. He said his name was "Rutherth", and asked if we knew where to find "Thee-thee." Finally figured out that Rupert was hoping to meet Tipi. I guess it's hard to pronounce T's and P's with a forked tongue.
    That's a good one---a rattlehead with a speech impediment. My old backpacking buddy and Pisagh NF brother for 30 years is named John Rupert so maybe there's some deeper meaning here.

    Oh and don't forget to look for the viper boys when you're crossing over big blowdowns---Here's magnificent James (he goes by Jimmy) on the Nutbuster trail---Upper Slickrock Creek #42---and close to where I almost put my hand to get across.


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    Snakebites are rare...deaths are rarer.

    But, just like someone wins the lottery, guaranteed, someone will die from snakebite.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...lDbwS1-9-tpSvS


    And guaranteed, its only a matter of time until an AT hiker is seriously injured or killed by bear. Because it hasnt happened, doesnt mean it wont. It will given enough time and numbers and encounters. Doesnt mean its worth worrying about .
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

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    But, just like someone wins the lottery, guaranteed, someone will die from snakebite.


    and the deaths from snakebites that i have covered, have happened because the person bitten has refused medical attention.....

    after all---"it's the will of god" if a death happens...

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    So, per the CDC there are 7-8K poisonous snake bites in the US annually but very few fatalities - only 5 in 2015. Bites are pretty rare and I suspect that most of the time the bites aren't life threatening and don't make the news. (E.g. I got bit by a copperhead while walking in a field but it didn't inject much venom, which I understand is typical for copperheads. I was young and healthy and my leg swelled up and hurt a lot but I didn't need any anti-venom.) In the grand picture of things to worry about snakes should be way down on your list. They aren't looking for trouble and will do everything they can to leave you alone. Just keep your eyes open and try not to to step on one by accident

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayne View Post
    So, per the CDC there are 7-8K poisonous snake bites in the US annually but very few fatalities - only 5 in 2015. Bites are pretty rare and I suspect that most of the time the bites aren't life threatening and don't make the news. (E.g. I got bit by a copperhead while walking in a field but it didn't inject much venom, which I understand is typical for copperheads. I was young and healthy and my leg swelled up and hurt a lot but I didn't need any anti-venom.) In the grand picture of things to worry about snakes should be way down on your list. They aren't looking for trouble and will do everything they can to leave you alone. Just keep your eyes open and try not to to step on one by accident
    this is something that comes up every so often and there is never a good answer for it. 7-8K bites a year is a good start, but as others point out, tons of these are people being genuinely idiotic.

    and yes, fatalities are supremely rare, but theres much more to consider here as well- such as how many near misses are there that didnt end up worse because the bite took place "in civilization"?

    how many bites that werent fatal never the less turned out worse than your hypothetical example for the person being bitten?

    what posts like this are really looking for is something like "how many people who were in the woods recreationally at least 3 (5? 10? idk) miles from the nearest road who werent deliberately harassing a snake were bitten in a manner that caused a serious (and what does serious mean?) health problem?"

    its sort of like the strangely common "whats the record slowest thru hike?" question.

    for fairly obvious reasons this is unanswerable. but trying to answer it with the statistics that are inevitably batted around (because its all we have to look to) isnt really answering it in any meaningful way.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Snakebites are rare...deaths are rarer.

    And guaranteed, its only a matter of time until an AT hiker is seriously injured or killed by bear. Because it hasnt happened, doesnt mean it wont. It will given enough time and numbers and encounters. Doesnt mean its worth worrying about .
    I see dying from a falling tree or limb in the same category as getting snake bit or lightning struck---it's not worth worrying about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayne View Post
    In the grand picture of things to worry about snakes should be way down on your list. They aren't looking for trouble and will do everything they can to leave you alone. Just keep your eyes open and try not to to step on one by accident
    Yes, you're right---My worn-out mantra---Keep your eyeballs open and your butt cheeks clenched. But hiking this way wears you out over time---Because always looking for pit vipers can take the joy out of backpacking---it's similar I guess to walking thru a minefield---always on high alert. It goes with the turf. Just another facet of Miss Nature's Dance.

    Oh and don't forget, we're entering the season of the Yellow Jackets and Their Nests. You MUST see the rattlesnake---you often never see the yellow jacket nests. Both are mine fields.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I see dying from a falling tree or limb in the same category as getting snake bit or lightning struck---it's not worth worrying about.

    .
    Agreed.


    In fact, I would say, if you arent OK with risk of dying in some manner, every time you go afield, you should stay home. Life is not without risk
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  14. #14

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    Death from a snake wasn't my concern. It could end a thru hike or keep one from ever being able to do big miles again. It is comforting that no one has stories like, "Beaver and I had done 750 miles when he got struck by that rattler. It ended our adventure right there."

    My 12 year old and I just finished the Sheltowee Trace Trail. Many miles were badly overgrown with grass. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of blow downs. A fair amount of bush whacking to get through it all. It was prime terrortory for a snake bite simply because you walked through so much stuff where you could not see your feet. Somehow I can't get comfortable with the fact that the odds are really THAT low.

    And if you are bit, what do you do?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    Death from a snake wasn't my concern. It could end a thru hike or keep one from ever being able to do big miles again. It is comforting that no one has stories like, "Beaver and I had done 750 miles when he got struck by that rattler. It ended our adventure right there."

    My 12 year old and I just finished the Sheltowee Trace Trail. Many miles were badly overgrown with grass. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of blow downs. A fair amount of bush whacking to get through it all. It was prime terrortory for a snake bite simply because you walked through so much stuff where you could not see your feet. Somehow I can't get comfortable with the fact that the odds are really THAT low.

    And if you are bit, what do you do?
    Like Godwin's Law, there's probably an internet rule that says Snake Attacks always seem worse when you sitting at a computer talking about them then when you're actually out on the trail. This rule applies to every other backpacking fear: tick bites, lightning strikes, bear attacks etc.

    FreeGoldRush says, "A fair amount of bushwacking to get through it all." Well, yes, there could be a snake underfoot. But you made it, right? And rattlesnakes here in the Southeast generally don't like being underneath alot of brush and doghobble and weeds---but it's still good to see where you're putting your feet.

    TRIP 134 211-L.jpg
    Underbrush? I saw this guy on the Dry Pond Lead trail in the Little Frog wilderness (BMT).

    Trip 159 121-XL.jpg
    I was on the South Fork Citico trail and saw this guy . . . barely. Have fun out there.

    TRIP 125 025-L.jpg
    Saw this guy on the Mill Branch trail and right where I wanted to put my tent.

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    People are unreasonable about snakes. Not just rattlesnakes - any kind of snake. They can't run, can't fly, can't growl or bark or squawk, but somehow those scales, and those beady or slitted eyes, and that forked tongue turn grown intelligent humans into wide-eyed quivering helpless brainless fools. Ok, that's a bit harsh. But really. All snakes are predators, however no snake sees us as prey. Their behavior towards humans is 100% defensive. Don't play with them or threaten them. Give them a safe way to retreat or hide.

    The same is true for many other wild animals, except maybe skunks.

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    Thank You everyone before this for not spouting that nonsensical "leading demographic of snake bite victims are 25-30 yo inebriated males on the weekend". Just judging from my local news the last few years, the largest demographic are unsuspecting home owners who accidentally step on a copperhead when going out to the mailbox or walking in their yard.
    "In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks"....John Muir

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    People are unreasonable about snakes.
    I'm not talking about irrational fears. Once you see a snake it is no longer a threat. I've stepped over and nearly stepped on several snakes. This recent rattlesnake that was inches from my foot was the second rattlesnake in roughly 800 miles of east coast hiking that got so close. At that rate I'm likely to be inches from 6 rattlesnakes on an AT thru hike.

    Has anyone stepped on a rattlesnake or copperhead? You never hear stories of this. It must be quite rare. Or maybe snake blindness is my issue. Are there other snake varieties on the AT to be aware of?

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    I'm not talking about irrational fears. Once you see a snake it is no longer a threat. I've stepped over and nearly stepped on several snakes. This recent rattlesnake that was inches from my foot was the second rattlesnake in roughly 800 miles of east coast hiking that got so close. At that rate I'm likely to be inches from 6 rattlesnakes on an AT thru hike.

    Has anyone stepped on a rattlesnake or copperhead? You never hear stories of this. It must be quite rare. Or maybe snake blindness is my issue. Are there other snake varieties on the AT to be aware of?
    I should clarify. I wasn't referring to anybody here. I was thinking of other people I know, mostly non-hikers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FreeGoldRush View Post
    I'm not talking about irrational fears. Once you see a snake it is no longer a threat. I've stepped over and nearly stepped on several snakes. This recent rattlesnake that was inches from my foot was the second rattlesnake in roughly 800 miles of east coast hiking that got so close. At that rate I'm likely to be inches from 6 rattlesnakes on an AT thru hike.

    Has anyone stepped on a rattlesnake or copperhead? You never hear stories of this. It must be quite rare. Or maybe snake blindness is my issue. Are there other snake varieties on the AT to be aware of?
    i once stepped squarely on a black racer. scared the heck out of me. the thought of how easily that could be a rattler or a copperhead and what would happen if it were is sobering. statistics on the rarity of snake bites dont alter this much.

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