Snakebite Threat Lags in U.S., but Still Remains

Smith said he doesn't like to dwell so much on snakebites for the very reason that he feels these usually gentle creatures have been demonized for this aspect of their behavior.

"From my perspective, they are one of the pinnacles of evolution ... in that they are so elegantly fashioned to do the work that they do," he said. "These are really amazing creatures, and they're under threat from encroachment and also a bad-spirited nature among people that consider them to be vermin that require eradication."

Importance of Rapid Attention

Surprisingly, a number of people who get bitten by snakes do not seek immediate medical attention. And while Stanton said that someone who has been bitten by a snake should not panic, quick action is the best strategy.

This action, he added, should not begin with chasing down the snake that bit you.

"You should not try to get the snake and bring it to the hospital; we get a lot of secondary bites that way," he said.

Once in the hospital, a bite victim's prognosis is generally very good. Stanton said that in many cases, the snake is not poisonous -- and even in the case of poisonous snakes, victims do not always need anti-venom.

But he added that the best policy when it comes to snakebites is to avoid them altogether -- a simple proposition for most.

"In terms of avoiding them, people just need to be aware of where they're walking," he said. "If they see a snake, they should not try to pick it up or get close and poke it with a stick. Most of the interactions come when people try to get too close."

Smith agreed.

"Venomous snakes are dangerous no more or no less than any kind of inappropriate behavior on a tall bridge or in heavy traffic," he said.

"If you're in an area that really does have a high population of venomous snakes, just pay attention," he added. "Look where you put your hands and feet, and stay on the path. Any rattlesnake that's seen is not going to be advancing on you."

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