Snake Bite Kits...

Nope… I’m not asking for advice here, just a little story/statement for the benefit of others. Lately there have abeen a few 1st aid threads where folks have asked what to put in thier 1st aid kits… I even threw in my 2 cents on a few of them.

A couple weeks ago my paddle partner and I were paddling in the Birds of Prey area of the Snake R. and we stopped for lunch at one particular site that’s very rich in pictographs. As we approached one of our favorite rock “tables” to set down our gear, we noticed it already occupied by another guest. A nice size prairie rattle snake was coiled up in the shadows. After a few brief “hello’s” we left the local resident alone and chose another spot. We all continued to enjoy the afternoon, though I must say Kim and I were probably a bit more cautious as we chose our path.

I realized that after paddling all winter…it was once again time to include the snake bit kit in the thwart bag.

Paddle Safe… we share this planet with lots of friends.

I’ll defer to those with medical …
…knowledge, but my understanding is that any snake kit is pretty useless, at least for U.S. species, compared to other lst aid measures.

Sawyer extractor, and evacuation
with minimal exertion; pretty standard. US types of snakes should not croak an adult in normal health except for sea snakes; 25% mortality there; nasty business.

Where does one find…
sea snakes in the US?

Just curious!



coral snakes?
Certainly no snake expert but aren’t there coral snakes down in the SE atlantic states, such as North Carolina all the way to Florida? Aren’t they venomous?


been around them here in Florida. Occassionally a cottonmouth will swim salty. That would qualify as a “sea snake”, kinda…L

But as for the Aussie, Asian, or similar varieties -dunno offhand. But I think not…

Anyone actually know, or done a little research?

About snake bite kits -poisonous snake bite treatments are now more keep the victim calm and get them to a clinic or hospital than the old Dracula approach. Most bites are not lethal for adults and teens -but they ARE dangerously PAINful. Excitation and movement will promote circulation of the poison, ergo the instructions to keep calm.

OTOH, if you’re out on a tour, I imagine SOME attempt at removal of the toxin MIGHT be good, even as the party should return to civilization to get professional medical treatment. But again, there’s widespread retrenchment from the old progressive skin cuts and suction to remove the toxins -prcisely because their blood-borne, and the swelling -which was formerly “attacked” by the progressive ‘cut & suck’ method, -is symptomatic and a resultant of the body’s toxic reaction, and not the spreading toxin per se.

The best defense is preparation and awareness:

DON’T stick your hands and arms, or feet and legs, into unknown areas without making your presecnce known, or by testing the area first.

DON’T blindly stomp along paths without watching out for probable protected/hiding spots and/or sunning spots. Logs, especially those with some rot and therefore the potential for having a cavity within and in said opening sequestering one of our herpetological friends, should be knowledgebly and onservantly approached.

DON’T SIT on unchecked logs, for the same reasons…!

DO A LITTLE RESEARCH on what’s likely to be found, and under what circumstances, in the areas you’ll frequent. There’s a ton of stuff on the net, and why, by golly, there’s you local library! Remember them? A little knowledge goes a LONG way.

You can’t bulletproof your life 100% of the time, and let’s face it, stuff happens. But we prepare -we dress right, and wear PFDs, and learn rescue techniques fo our on-water fun. We should all take our own advice as well for some of our ancillary off-water activities aw well.

That way we’ll all be better prepared for a variety of things, and better able to handle them. And better prepared, we’ll more enjoyably

Paddle On!

-Frank in Miami

Paddled in a LOT of swamps over the SE. Actually,

Cottonmouths are a non-aquatic snake that just

likes to swim! Truely aquatic snakes have eyes

on the tops of their heads, like ‘gators and

frogs, so they can see while in the water. Cotton

mouths have to hold their heads up high as they swim. That’s one way to distinguish them in the


And Cottonmouth bites in the water are fairly rare. Not unknown, but rare. Remember that if

you are in the deep doo-doo. also remember not

to splash water at them while they are swimming.

On land they are foul tempered, mean, nasty,

extremely agressive and have all the charm of my

Marine drill instructor.

As far as snakebite kits go, if you can get to a

dr in an hr, do nothing but keep the wound low.

cutting nearly always allows the venon to seep in

deeper. tournequets and ice may tend to slow the surface spread but do nothing for the real spread.

for Coral snakes which are extremely toxic,

probably the only effective treatment in the field

is immediate amputation! Fortunately, Coral

snakes are rare, about as non-aggressive as you

can find, and generally loathe to bite in self

defense. Children are the main victims because

they find the snakes pretty and pick them up to

play with them. They also have tiny teeth and not

the fangs of a pit viper. They spread toxin the

same way we get smallpox vaccines: scratch the

surface and the venom flows in.

This is what I’ve discovered about encountering

Cottonmouths while paddling: Do not paddle away as

fast as you can. You’ll create an eddy and the snake may well follow you. Best bet is to turn

90 degrees to the snake’s direction of travel

and paddle as slowly as your heart will allow.

They seem to hate crossing eddylines. They tend to bounce off.

The 3rd and 4th unwritten rules of paddling in the

deep south are considered a pair.

3) Never shoot at a snake in your boat

4) NEVER swim with a pissed off snake.

The first and second unwritten rules are:

1) logs do not swim upstream.

2) if you see a log swimming upstream, it

aint’ a log.

And out of a sense of completeness:

5) Never gig a frog whose eyes are more

than 8" apart, cause it ain’t a frog.

Coral Snake Medical Info

– Last Updated: Jun-07-04 9:44 AM EST –

I'm in Texas, and the only coral snake I've ever seen was flattened in the middle of the road in my parents' neighborhood (and yes, it was coral and not a milk or kingsnake--red and yellow kill a fellow...).

However, a quick Yahoo search has yielded some nice information on the potential medical ramifications of being bitten by coral snakes.

I've found that the only venemous snake that you REALLY need to watch for are the cottonmouth/water moccasins. We have a good variety of the U.S.'s venemous snakes in Texas (not that the U.S. has many to begin with), and all of them are shy and will head the other direction when given the chance. Cottonmouths don't always run, and seem very territorial. Even rattlesnakes seem to prefer retreating to their den when you're in close proximity, but for some reason or other the cottonmouth (is there an UGLIER snake in the world?) likes to lash out and actually go on the offensive with intruders. Be very careful and wary of these fat ugly things. I've never encountered one in or on the water, thank goodness. I'm not afraid of snakes at all and have some experience handling them, but put me in the water with one and my attitude changes.

Edit: Here are some more medical links for snake bites I found on Yahoo after initially posting.



*You'll notice that in the "Pre-hospital Treatment" section it indicates that Sawyer's Extractor is worthless, as is the incision, suction, and tourniquets, and they may actually be more harmful than helpful.

Dead center on Cottonmouths…
…I’ve had them chase me for no reason when it

would have been faster and less trouble to slip

into the water.

Rattlesnakes and copperheads don’t taste too bad

either, but Cottonmouths taste as nasty as their


We had some coral snakes in NC. Saw one–and, yes,

I know the difference too–tried to catch up with it as it went in under a rotted log, but couldn’t.

I had on leather gloves, so I was safe from bites.

I’ve handled rattlesnakes and copperheads and

cottonmouths, but the only ones who just flat

scare the snot out of me are cottonmouths:evil,

bad-tempered, nasty, and just plain mean.

I often thought it almost had to be a Cottonmouth

that talked Eve into eating the apple.

Ugly snakes can’t convince ladies
They’re too ugly–no one would listen to a brackish-colored abomination.

I should also point out that’s environmental section also has great information on spider venom and treatment, drowning accidents, etc. Basically there is a lot of valuable information to browse through for possible field incidents. However, nothing replaces a good first-aid course and caution.

Twom minutes on google and you
would know. In hawaii fron time to time:

I would not buy the

– Last Updated: Jun-07-04 12:31 PM EST –

study on the extractor wholesale. It is based on pigs. Human circulation 7 mm below the surface of your skin may be much different. Cicculation in fats are much different than in muscle.

I also would not dismiss it. Thanks for the interesting reference. ther was a link to an abstract (summary) of the article on the site you linked to.

Edit to add this paragraph. Further notes on the study, no antivenom was ever used. Is that protocol for a human snakebite victim brought to the hospital within a few hours of snakebite. Assuming that it is not, perhaps a study of the sawyer extractor in it's real potential place (before standard hospital protocal) should be done.

I certainly do not know anyone who currently advocates any cutting in case of snakebite. In my wilderness first aid course they warned against it, strongly.

Great Links Brentifer… Thanks
Brentifer’s response included these two links:



I realize they’re already posted in this thread, but they certainly underscore the idea that snake bite kits may be of limited value (worthless). What I found very interesting was that icing the wound fell under the same catagory as whiskey and folk remedies.

As I said in the original post… my intent was to remind folks it’s that time of year (at least up north). Like everything else in life, conditions vary.

Paddle Safe

No expert …
I am no expert on snakes by any means, but over 40 years of paddling in Missouri has resulted in quite a few encounters with Copperheads, Timber Rattlers, and Water Moccasins (aka Cottonmouths).

This is what I’ve learned: In Missouri you are most likely to encounter the Copperhead. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, there are no recorded deaths from Copperheads bites. I have found them to generally be non aggressive. Every person I’ve seen that got bit by a Copperhead was either too close to then, stepped on them, or tried to pick them up. Many were gathering wood. If I find them in an area where I’m camping, I generally relocate them. Did 3 once in a 6 foot square area in one campsite.

Timber Rattlers are less seldom seen than Copperheads in Missouri, but like the Copperhead, all the encounters I’ve had with them

resulted in them generally being non aggressive. Beautiful snake in my opinion, but they will certainly bite if provoked. My presence & a little gentle persuasion resulted in the ones I’ve encountered leaving the area where I saw them. If I know they are around the area, my movements are more calculated & I am even more wary of possible encounters. Get to hospital asap if bitten by a Timber Rattler; quite nasty venom & the big ones carry a load of it.

Water Moccasins I’ve encountered in Missouri & Arkansas were usually in swampy areas, water was brackish, little to no current, and in some cases the water where they were had been trapped in depressions when rivers receded after flooding. In every instance I had disturbed the water in the area where they were; either walking through the water, or paddling by or through. In every instance they almost immediately came towards me, or the boat, seemingly with no fear. In all but one occasion, I immediately departed the area and in a few cases they followed for a while. In the one instance where I was unable to depart quickly enough, it was aggressively swimming, full speed towards my canoe & made it to about 2 feet from the boat when it received a stunning blow from the flat of a paddle blade, followed by 3 more with the blade edge, in quick succession. I really believe it would have at least attempted entry into the canoe. If I see them, I avoid them like the plague! And yes, they are evil & ugly looking up close, particularly the larger ones. Nasty venom! Getting bit by a Water Moccasin means a trip to the hospital asap!

As far as I’m concerned, the best defense against poisonous snakes is to watch where you step, walk, run, sit, lay down and be careful where you stick your hands. Check campsite on a regular basis; have had them come into camp, or come out of hiding after my arrival. Be careful if gathering firewood, reaching under tent, or canoe.

I carry a Sawyer extractor kit, but in my opinion, it is virtually worthless unless applied immediately, and even then, the greatest benefit it offers is the psychological value it offers the bite victim. The cut & suck method is great for tissue damage; as is the incorrect application of ice. Get to the hospital asap with the snakebite victim. Try to keep them as quiet & comfortable & calm as possible, if you have to move them.

Snakes are amazing creatures, definitely have a purpose, and in my opinion, are best left unharmed, in the area where they were encountered (within reason). That being said; Water Moccasins encountered in my camp will be permanently relocated to the nether world, with no apologies given.


Nice review…

Totally agree on water mocassins
Took me back a ways that did. They are certainly way agressive for north american snakes. Watch those overhanging tree branches you southern paddlers, and I kid you not.

Put six slugs out of 10 shots out of a remington nylon 66 into one before the gun even got to my cheek or my father could even take aim. following our boat wake and way too close. We were on a private pond on my uncles farm though so if the backdrop for bullets was not cool, then they were trespassing. I was about 10, and did not think about richochet danger for more than about 1/2 second.

I don’t know, but
If I cannot be alone, I wolud rather be among Sharks and Alligators than among snakes.



Or Bears and Wolves …
but it’s not always our choice :slight_smile:


– Last Updated: Jun-07-04 12:56 PM EST –

As several noted, the Cotton Mouth is the wrost. I have had them come at the boat, and just not stop until you beat them with a paddle. I have played with the Fer De Lance, and I think the American Cotton Mouth is more agressive.

Coral Snakes are very venemous, but are very non agressive, and have very small dull teeth. "Red on yellow will kill a fellow." If the red bands and yellow bands are adjacent, it is a coral snake.

There are Sea Snakes in the Caribean, so they might sometime be encountered in Florida waters, but I never heard of it. They are very venemous, but they are very non agressive.

Rattlesnakes are pretty non agressive, and will retreat if given a chance, but they will bite you if you sit on one.

BTW: Those Burmese Pythons that are invading the Everglades are not venemous, but a 10' snake can inflict an awful bite wound...

For most average sized adults, snakes bites are seldom fatal, but they are painful. I took a buddy to the hospital when he got bitten by a Cotton Mouth. He only weighed 135# and he got a good load of venom. He was in a alot of pain, but he was also in very good shape. The doctor said his life was never in danger.

I hear the best advice is just to get to the hospital as quick as possible, and keep the victim as quiet as you can.

I think the danger would be much greater for anyone with heart problems....

have you ever noticed…
that Steve Irwin, aka Crocodile Hunter, has somehow managed to never mess around with Water Moccasins? They are the nastiest and most ill-tempered residents of our great southern waterways. I have had many encounters with them, none of which I felt comfortable about. Their biggest crime is the uncalled for destruction of the banded water snakes (and any other snake that happens to be in or around the water). For the most part, you will not find moccasins around big water, rapidly flowing water, far from swampy/boggy areas, and rarely in tree branches. Sometimes resting on logs, on stumps, under dead-falls -yes; but, generally not up in the branches that overhang the streams.

The big problem is that moccasins vary greatly in pattern and coloration, depending on age and location/habitat. The only real way to tell them from their non-venomous relatives is their eyes. Moccasins will have “cat” eyes while the others will have round pupils. Therein lies the problem -most people do not wish to get close enough for the verification so they default to treating all snakes found around water as moccasins and kill them.

But, back to the original sting theme: Snake-bite kits have little or no physiological application. If you or someone in your party gets bitten by a venomous snake, you have a problem. That is why pre-float planning is so important. You must know where all of the takeouts are, have a float plan and STICK TO IT, always have plenty of drinking water, and have a contingency plan on who you are going to contact and how. You probably will not die form the bite (120 lbs or more) if you are in decent shape and you do not do anything stupid afterwards. If you are alone (flawed plan to start with) then you are better off making yourself highly visible, settling down with shelter and water, and waiting for someone to come and get you. If it makes your mother happier to know that you have a snake-bite kit in your first aid bag, then trot on down to WallyMart and drop $3 for theirs, just don’t ever actually try to use it. Practice the best approach to dealing with moccasins -realize they are out there, learn as much as you can about them, watch for them, and avoid them. They will generally hold their territory, will strike with little provocation, and desrve to be left alone.