As autumn approaches, poisonous Copperhead snakes have been seen in growing numbers around local bike and walking trails.
Copperhead snakes are pit vipers or crotalids (family Crotalidae); poisonous snakes that are named for the two heat sensing pits used to locate prey that are positioned between the eyes and the nostrils.
According to copperhead-snake.com, “Their venom is hemolytic; it destroys the red corpuscles of the blood and releases the hemoglobin into the surrounding fluid. The resultant hemorrhaging destroys the snake’s normal prey, mostly small mammals.”
Bites on humans can be very painful for adults but potentially dangerous for small children and pets.
County employees at Lake Accotink Park say there have been some reports of copperheads there. Neighborhood patrols in Accotink Creek drainage areas have reported the snakes, as well.
As daytime air temperatures fall, the snakes seek sunny rocks to warm their bodies. They blend easily into fallen leaves.
There have been no reports of bites on humans so far, but walkers, runners and bicycle riders should check out their surrounding as they navigate trails. Look closely at the trail before you stop, especially if you are reaching for an object on the ground.
Copperheads are usually colorful and strikingly patterned snakes, according to the copperhead-snake.com website. The background color of the back and sides is tan to pinkish. There are darker, chestnut colored bands across the back and sides. Each hourglass shaped band is of varying width.
Bite symptoms include intense pain, tingling, throbbing, swelling, and severe nausea. Damage can occur to muscle and bone tissue, especially when the bite occurs in the outer extremities such as the hands and feet, areas in which there is not a large muscle mass to absorb the venom.
Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart. Get medical help, the website suggests. Do not attempt to drive yourself. Most of all try and stay calm to keep from pumping the poison around your system. The main thing is to get to a hospital.
If you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a Copperhead, keep the animal calm – carry to your car if possible, and drive to a veterinary clinic.
Do not apply ice or try to suck the poison out. Wrap a bandage firmly around the affected limb as often more than one bite occurs.
For more information on Copperheads, go to copperhead-snake.com.