By SUSAN LYNCH
I was working Friday when I received the dreaded call. The same call I get once a year that makes me cringe from head to toe. It was my husband, and he had just killed the first snake of the season. Living in the country has its pros and cons, and snakes definitely fall under the con list for us. Thankfully, it was just a common hognose this time.
More often than not, this call ends with me panicking for the next two weeks because there was a copperhead in my yard.
According to the “Forestry Extension for KY Snakes,” Estill County is home to 18 species of snakes. Yes, I said 18! The snakes that you may run across in your own back yard are; the Common Green Snake, Worm Snake, Northern Water Snake, Southeastern Crowned Snake, Ring-necked Snake, Red Belly Snake, Rat Snake, Queen Snake, King Snake, Hognose Snake, Garter Snake, Earth Snake, Corn Snake, Timber Rattler, Copperhead, Coachwhip, Brown Snake, and the Black Racer.
Although there have been reports in the past of Cottonmouths also living here, they are not indigenous to our area, and therefore not included in this list.
Luckily for us, out of these 18 species only two of them are venomous, the Timber Rattler and the Copperhead. Both of these snakes pack a mean bite and would require being treated by a doctor.
The Timber Rattler is actually a very docile snake and will avoid biting a person if at all possible. They tend to retreat for cover when they feel threatened. The Copperhead is the opposite. They are an aggressive species; when they feel threatened their instinct is to recoil and strike.
So, what should you do if you are bitten (especially by a rattlesnake)? Move away from the snake, try to remain calm, remove any watches, rings, or bracelets, call 911, or have someone drive you to your local hospital as soon as possible (call ahead of time and let them know you are coming if you have a cell phone). On the way to the hospital, if possible, elevate the bite above the heart, and try to keep your heart rate down. What NOT to do, do NOT cut the bite, do NOT apply ice, do NOT attempt to suck the venom out with your mouth, and do NOT administer drugs or alcohol.
What if you are bitten by a non-venomous snake? Well, fortunately, you won’t have to worry about it being life or death without treatment, but it can still be dangerous. The first thing you want to do is rinse the wound completely with the cleanest water available. Some snakes eat dead prey and have large amounts of bacteria in their mouths.
This means that you can have the same in your wound and infection can be an issue. Next, take a mild soap with anti-bacterial properties and wash the wound. Dry it off with a washcloth or towel but be careful not to rub. Leave the bite uncovered as much as possible, and if it doesn’t seem to be healing after a few days see your doctor. You may still need an antibiotic.
Remember the things we do in the first moments after a snake bite can make a huge difference in the degree that the bite will affect us.