Snake Bites

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COLUMBIA – The Missouri Poison Center said snake bites are up this year compared to last. From January to June alone, the poison center has received four more reports of snake bites and it expects to get even more.

“We will start seeing more right now because it’s hot,” said Missouri Poison Center pharmacist Kathy Hahn. “Also copperheads, which are the most common snake in Missouri, are born between August and September, so we’re definitely going to see more calls.” 

There have been 91 snake bites so far in Missouri. Hahn said nonvenomous and venomous snake bites look different.

“People get pretty nervous when they get bit,” Hahn said. “If it is a nonvenomous snake it’s usually going to look like a small human bite or scratches. Venomous snakes leave fang marks, it could be between one and four. And then even some of those bites, you will have fang marks, but they are considered dry bites and they don’t envenomate.”

Hahn said about 80-90 percent of of snake bites in Missouri are from copperheads.

"The good news is it’s they're the least venomous the pit viper we have," Hahn said. "And then, from that we see the cotton mouth or water moccasin and we see a few rattle snakes every year.”

Hanh said is someone gets bitten by a snake, they should call the Missouri Poison Center before going to the emergency room.

“I would recommend calling because we see a lot of nonvenomous snake bites and those don’t warrant an ER visit," Hahn said. “But yeah, give us a call. We are happy to talk, case through with a person, and see if they need to go.”

Hanhn said if a person does need to seek medical help, the center can call the ER before while the patient is on their way. 

“We also call the ER and let them know they’re coming and they kind of have a game plan whether or not they’re going to use the anti-venom and monitoring and things of that nature,” Hahn said.

Wildlife Regional Supervisor John George said heavy rain and flooding can lead to more snakes bites.

“During a lot of flooding in an area, all wildlife is going to be restricted to a smaller land masses,” George said. “So if people are there too, they're going to be in closer exposure to those snakes and other animals. So the chances of a random or accidental bite will be greater.” 

George said most snake bites can be prevented.

“Of course with snake bites you usually have the fact that people are doing something with it that they shouldn’t be doing,” George said. “Trying to catch it, maybe they're trying to be kind, relocate it and so they catch it and get bit.”

George said snakes are a vital part of the ecosystem.

“If you don’t want them near where you live, try and make sure you don’t accidentally have covered habitat for them like a wood pile too close to the house or brush pile, or any habitat that would harbor mice or small rodents can easily harbor venomous snakes,” George said. “With that in mind, if you keep your place clean and debris and things away, you shouldn’t have an area that is as inviting for snakes, and if you have any, you should be able to see them.”