Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Venomous or poisonous?  By Caitlyn

Snakes! Even if they’re not venomous – wait – do you know the difference between venomous and poisonous?
Some people use the words interchangeably because once in the body, the chemicals do similar damage, attacking the heart, brain or other vital targets. But according to the Smithsonian: the terms do mean very different things. Traditionally, venomous creatures bite, sting or stab you to do their damage, while you have bite or touch poisonous critters to feel their effects. That means venomous organisms need a way in, like fangs or teeth. Poisonous organisms take a more passive approach, often lining the skin or other surfaces with toxic chemicals. Oh and by the way, the antidote to snake venom  is anti-venin, not anti-venom.
Back to the snakes.
Rule number 1. Leave all snakes alone. Apply the following safety rules when traveling in areas where there are venomous snakes:
  • Walk carefully and watch where you step. Step onto logs rather than over them before looking and moving on.
  • Look closely when picking fruit or moving around water.
  • Do not tease, molest, or harass snakes. Snakes cannot close their eyes. Therefore, you cannot tell if they are asleep. Some snakes, such as mambas, cobras, and bushmasters, will attack aggressively when cornered or guarding a nest.
  • Use sticks to turn logs and rocks.
  • Wear proper footgear, particularly at night.
  • Carefully check bedding, shelter, and clothing.
  • Be calm when you encounter serpents. Snakes cannot hear and you can occasionally surprise them when they are sleeping or sunning. Normally, they will flee if given the opportunity.
  • Use extreme care if you must kill snakes for food or safety. Although it is not common, warm, sleeping human bodies occasionally attract snakes.
The polar regions are free of snakes due to their inhospitable environments. Other areas considered to be free of  venomous snakes are New Zealand, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Polynesia, and Hawaii. This means America does have  venomous snakes. Here are the ones to watch out for:
  • Photo by Bruce Hallman/USFWS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest/27901951646 CC2.0
              American Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
This snake has light bronze coloring and a diamond pattern. It is found along the east coast and southern states, from Texas to New Jersey.
  • By Everglades NPS from Homestead, Florida, United States (Coral Snake, NPSPhoto) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
              Coral snake (Micrurus fulvius)
Found in southern coastal states like Louisiana and Florida, this snake can be identified by its stripes, which correspond to the rhyme, “Red on yellow, deadly fellow; Red on black, venom lack.”
  • Image: Bree McGhee, https://www.flickr.com/photos/soulsurvivor08/3178716836
              Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
This water snake is poisonous, but not often fatal. Watch out for it along the eastern coastal states, like Virginia and the Carolinas.
Image: By Skeeze, https://pixabay.com/en/rattlesnake-viper-poisonous-reptile-902539/ CC0

Rattlesnake (Crotalus species)
This poisonous snake is notorious in the American southwest, particularly west of the Mississipi, especially Texas and Arizona. It blends in with the light sand and sun-bleached rocks of deserts.

1 comment:

Sarthurk said...

I got slashed on the hand by a Crotalus viridis oreganus. Within 5 minutes the bottoms of my feet, my palms, and my face were numb. The slash wound stung like 100 bald faced hornets. I was treated with 11 units of anti "venin"? serum. Nevertheless, the swelling progressed from my hand to about my armpit in about 4 hours before the swelling subsided. I was given a morphine injection every hour, on the hour overnight. I was in love with the nurse my morning. I had no bruising or black and blue from it, so I'm assuming that the venom was nearly entirely the neurotoxin, and not the hemolytic protein. The snake was in the first part of shedding its skin, was therefore blind, and therefore supposedly didn't need to "digest" any prey, but did need the neurotoxin for defense, and somehow can regulate that combination of injectables innately. I'm not sure how true this is. Pit vipers don't necessarily need their eyesight, as they they sense IR with their "pits" to locate prey. I find this hard to believe, as I've seen rattlesnakes flee from several yards as I approached, and I don't think the "pits" are that sensitive, but I could be wrong there as well.

Supposedly, I'm now immune to rattlesnake venom. However I don't plan to test that theory.