DNR: 60% of snake bites are alcohol-related

Published: Jul. 6, 2012 at 9:09 PM EDT|Updated: May. 12, 2014 at 8:15 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you have outdoor plans this weekend you might want to watch your step. Coast to coast some experts say snake bite numbers are on the rise.

In South Carolina, the Palmetto Poison Control Center says they get one to two calls a day this time of year on snake bites.

If it's a venomous snake, the care kit includes just one thing, your car keys, because you want to immediately head to the hospital.

Behind the glass at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden lies a canebrake rattlesnake, maybe they're a little less menacing, but if you saw that rattlesnake along the banks of the Saluda River, you might scream and run and the snake too.

"All snakes are really afraid of people, so they try to hide from us, they have wonderful camouflage so they can be hiding close by and you don't ever see them," said Riverbanks Zoo's Herpetologist, Scott Pfaff.

Thirty-eight different snakes call South Carolina home, but only six are venomous.

So how can you tell if a snake is non-venomous?

"They're basically long and thin like a garden hose and all the venomous snakes are pit vipers and they tend to be short and fat like a hot dog, said Ptaff.

Lexington Medical Center sees several snake bite cases a year.  The bites differ.

"If the bite mark has a horseshoe type of pattern that's typically a non venomous snake," said Dr. Todd Crump with the Lexington Medical Center. "If you see two distinct puncture wounds you need to worry about a venomous snake."

Venomous snakes don't always use their venom, it's reserved for eating purposes.

Most ER's keep Anti-venin on hand.

"Typically we have some here," said Crump. "If it's not here we can rapidly get it from the zoo."

Those who've studied the numbers say while someone accidentally grabs or steps on a snake, people most often have no one to blame but themselves.

According to Steve Bennett with the Department of Natural Resources, 70 to 75 percent of those were accounted for by people trying to catch or kill that venomous snake.

"Right off the bat if you stop and you leave that snake alone you're going to eliminate 70 to 75 percent of the bites, now 60 percent of those involved alcohol, so there you go," said Bennett.

Getting exact bite numbers is difficult, because of health laws.

"We can't get those records, so if you take the records from emergency rooms, poison control centers, you're probably overestimating the number of really true snake invenominations, said Bennett.

Still they happen, which is why the experts say the best thing to do when you see a snake is turn and walk away.

The snake population in South Carolina grows in late summer and early fall, because that's their mating season.

When temperatures are near 100-degrees, snakes are most likely on the move in the late evening and overnight hours when it begins to cool off.

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