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Millie Suk
Millie Suk
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Snake Bites

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The focus of many news reports in Minnesota today have been on a recent snake bite that happened in the blufflands of southeastern Minnesota. A young man was hiking on a trail in Beaver Creek State Park when he was bitten by a Timber rattlesnake – a poisonous snake. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and is, thankfully, listed in fair condition.

As an avid hiker myself, my initial reaction was worry, so I decided to do a little research. I’ve come across my fair share of garter snakes during my adventures, but that’s about it. After a little bit of digging I was happy to learn that there are only 2 poisonous snakes in Minnesota – the Timber rattlesnake and the Massasaugua (another type of rattlesnake). I was further relieved to learn that the last reported rattler bite in Minnesota was in 2000 and involved a man who was trying to photograph the snake and made a sudden movement. After a few days in the hospital, he recovered.

While you are unlikely to come across a venomous snake while out for a walk or a hike in Minnesota, here are a few safety tips to consider before your next adventure:

Avoiding a snake bite:

- Stick to the trails and avoid tall grass

- Protect your lower extremities – wear boots or at least shoes and loose, long pants

- Never handle a snake – even if you think it is dead, as dead snakes can reflexively bite for up to an hour after death

- Learn to identify poisonous snakes

- Don’t stick your hand in a dark crevasse or hole – use a stick if you need to retrieve something

If bitten:

- Get away from the snake

- Call 911 immediately – don’t wait for pain; it’s helpful if you can tell them what the snake looked like

- Wash the bite with soap and warm water

- Do not elevate — keep it lower than your heart

- Immobilize the bitten area

With these suggestions in mind, get out and safely enjoy the rest of the warm summer weather here in Minnesota.

Think about it.

1 Comment

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  1. Robert Larson says:
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    Hi. While any venemous snake bite is unfortunate and dangerous, your advice to get outdoors and enjoy the weather is perfect. My wife Laura and I ‘rescue’ snakes (including plenty of rattlesnakes) as campground hosts in a Arizona State Park. We winter there, and spend our summers in Minnesota.
    The vast majority of ALL snakebites, venemous and otherwise, are what the Rangers and other wildlife experts call ‘illegitimate'; that is, they occur when folks are attempting to handle, capure, or kill the snake. You could include photography in there too – better have a telephoto lens; no cell phone pix, please! We encourage people to educate themselves about snakes, and to admire them from a safe distance if they are lucky enough to have an encounter. Beyond that, leave them alone. It is rare and unfortunate for walkers & hikers to be bitten, even in the Southwest where rattlers are common, but it does happen. Don’t try to kill or capture the snake, but as stated a description is helpful – and maybe a photo? Just don’t get bitten again! Symptoms may be severe, mild or non-existant, but you must remain as calm as possible and seek medical help immediately. No exceptions, you tough guys out there. While deaths may be rare, a delay in treatment often results in serious tissue damage (including tissue death) & other nasty complications – sometimes long term. Have fun and don’t worry about it!
    Robert