Living with Snakes
Many people can vividly recall the last encounter they had with
a snake, even if it was at a very young age. For most, the experience
was startling or frightening. A majority of us have been conditioned
as children to fear snakes, or have not learned enough about snakes
to appreciate them in their natural environment. Snakes have many
natural enemies such as raccoons, skunks, opossums, owls, hawks,
ducks, geese, turkeys, and other snakes. Yet their most deadly
enemy is human, due to the destruction of habitat, automobiles,
human fear, and ignorance. Most of the snakes killed by humans
have turned out to be harmless. Humans have a greater chance of
dying by drowning, or a lightening strike, than by snakebite.
There are two basic types of snake: nonvenomous and venomous.
Nonvenomous and venomous snakes are beneficial to the ecosystem
rodent and insect populations. Venomous snakes found in Illinois
are called pit vipers, named for the visible heat sensory pits,
or holes, on each side of the face between the eye and nostril.
The triangular-shaped head of a pit viper is wider than the neck,
where most nonvenomous snakes have heads that are similar in size
to their bodies. Though any snake can potentially bite a human,
only venomous snakes are poisonous. The venom of a pit viper is
hemotoxic, and destroys the victim’s red blood cells and
blood vessel walls when bitten. The Copperhead, Cottonmouth, and
Rattlesnake are members of the pit viper family.
If you are unsure as to whether a particular snake is poisonous,
proceed with caution and wait for the snake to flee.
August - September 2003: Cytospora
Canker of Spruce | Living with Snakes | Late
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