Nobody Likes A Snake In The Grass--or Anywhere Else

OUTDOORS

June 12, 1991|By Marie V. Forbes

High-decibel screams coming from a neighbor's garage shattered the stillness of a recent June morning.

People erupted from the surrounding houses, wondering what caused the distress.

As it turned out, those shrieks of fear and dismay were not a reaction to some life-threatening calamity -- instead, they were one terrified woman's response to a 3-foot-long black snake that had coiled itself between the flower pots and a child's tricycle.

At Piney Branch golf course, a golfer pokes anxiously along the bank of the pondon the 15th hole, torn between losing his brand-new ball and fear ofencountering a snake. A friend who is an intrepid outdoorsman and hunter admits his one fear when camping is that a snake will decide to share his sleeping bag.

Snakes. It is a never-ending mystery why such shy, reclusive creatures possess the power to intimidate people who have faced more serious danger with some degree of courage.

Generally, snakes would rather run than bite. In the entire country, more people die each year from bee stings and lightning strikes than from venomous snake bites.

But to many who harbor an instinctive fearof the reptiles, that's scant comfort. Having been warned that a snake bite can be poisonous, many assume all snakes are deadly. Others react to the snakes' slithering.

"Ugh! They're slimy!" a teen-ager responded when asked why she disliked snakes so much. No amount of urging would convince her to touch the delicately-scaled skin of a small corn snake.

Only four species of poisonous snakes are found in the U.S. -- copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes and water moccasins.

In Carroll County, the copperhead is the only dangerous speciesone is likely to encounter. While the copperhead's bite can be painful, it is usually not fatal.

The most common local snake is the black snake. This species is seldom mistaken for another, since its name describes it perfectly.

A glistening black when it has newly shed its skin, its color dulls gradually to a charcoal-gray. A voraciousconsumer of mice and other rodents, it is often valued by farmers.

Another common local species is the Eastern Kingsnake -- a rich, chocolate brown in color with narrow white bands.

Bearing a resemblance to the kingsnake is the Eastern Hognose snake. Because this species tends to puff up its neck and inflate its body when disturbed, it can be rather frightening.

If these tactics fail to discourage an intruder, it simply rolls over and plays dead. Also common is the tiny garter snake, which comes in a variety of colors and inhabits both fields and gardens.

Though most local snakes are harmless, the danger of snake bite cannot be ignored. When hiking or working outdoors,a few precautions against snake-bite can save a lot of pain and worry.

When threatened, snakes, like most wild creatures, will attemptto defend themselves. The first rule is, if you startle a snake in the wild, retreat.

When hiking, it is wise to wear boots that will cover your ankles. Although you will never see most snakes along the trail, inadvertently stepping on one could lead to trouble.

Pokingabout under logs, under rocks or in caves is particularly hazardous.Such dark, damp places are a favored habitat for snakes.

Even a poisonous snake that has been killed can be dangerous -- muscle reflexes in the head can cause it to inflict a venomous bite.

Fortunately, not all bites from venomous snakes are equally dangerous. About 30percentof venomous snake-bites are dry bites -- no venom is injected.

In case of a bite, the important rule is to keep calm and get medical attention as soon as possible. Anti-venoms work effectively against snake bite, even when administered some time after the bite.

For those who plan to travel in out-of-the-way areas where poisonous snakes are prevalent and medical help is not readily available, kits that use a plastic pump to extract the venom can be purchased at somecamping and outdoors supply stores. Even if such kits are used, one should see a doctor as soon as possible after being bitten.

*

Here are winners in the recent panfish derby at Piney Run Park, one of18 sites around the state that played host to the event: 6.5,7

Crappie: 1. Tom Pohuski, .84 pounds; 2. Eric Hockett, .77; 3. Tiaoa Ross, .51; catfish: 1. Artie Pugh, 8.86 pounds (new event record for heaviest fish ever); 2. Charlie Kenyan, 1.99; 3. Matt Dicken, 1.84; bluegill: Glenn Seitz, .50; 2. Tom Keeney, .49; 3. Scott Cantrell, .49; smallest fish: Brent Blythe, 1.58: (new record for smallest ever); grand prize drawing winner: Jessica Whye.

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