How to Avoid and Survive a Snake Attack
October 9, 2019
A snake attack can be expensive, create significant illness and can even result in death if not treated.
A snake attack is a possible thing that can happen to a human encountering the critter in a bad way. However, a snake attack can also be avoided if you use common sense when traveling where snakes are present.

In this article, we will be looking at ways to avoid a snake attack as well as what to do if you are bitten by any kind of snake.

How To Survive Snakes While Hiking
the basics

In reality, a snake attack doesn’t just happen when people get near snakes. A snake doesn’t just attack a human being unless it has been given a reason to.

  • If you step on a snake, it might defend itself and bite.
  • If you attempt to handle a snake, it might defend itself and bite.
  • If you attempt to harm or kill a snake, it might bite you in self-defense.

Are you seeing a trend here in “what if” scenarios? SELF-DEFENSE! If you force an animal, snakes included, into defending themselves, it might not end well for you.

The ultimate way to avoid a snake attack is to avoid snakes in the first place. But that isn’t always so easy, especially for us hiking and backpacking enthusiasts.

How to Avoid a Snake Attack
and survive

First thing is first, assume an area you are hiking in may be loaded with snakes. This isn’t meant to scare you, this is meant to make you aware of your surroundings. While hiking, you should always be watching your step.

It is rare that a snake will be on the trail but it could very well cross the trail you are hiking on. If you go off-trail, expect your chances of seeing a snake be increased significantly.

Finally, if you actually come into contact with a snake, simply move around it, giving it plenty of room while also watching where else you are stepping. It’s careless not to watch where you are walking because of all the other hazards that you are more likely to encounter than a snake attack.

Snake Attack Facts
you should know

Snakes don’t really attack people, that’s a myth made up by generations who fear snakes based on some mythical story about them being evil.

Snakes are wild animals. Wild animals fear humans and will defend themselves if they have no other way of egress. Guess who else does that? HUMANS!

Before you call a snake evil, remember, a snake didn’t invent the Atom Bomb! I am what you would call, a snake conservationist. I like snakes. I care about them. I want to see snakes protected, even venomous ones. One thing I try my best to do, is to educate those who don’t know, to tell them about the common myths and facts about snakes:

1. Snakes don’t chase you

While some may mimic a chase or flee in your direction, most of the time, if you turn and chase them, they will flee away from you.

2. Snakes want to kill you

They don’t! They don’t want anything to do with you. Venomous snakes know they can’t eat you so often times, if they bite a human, they dry bite meaning they do not inject venom because they are saving it for a smaller meal that they need to survive hibernation.

3. Snakes do hibernate!

In my area, Shawnee National Forest, snakes hibernate in the winter inside the dens of bluffs and they come out in the spring. The best time to hike snake free (for the most part) is when the weather is cold!

4. Some snakes are venomous not poisonous

While some species may contain poison, the ones you need to worry about are venomous, not poisonous. The venomous snakes in my area are Copperheads, Cottonmouths and Timber Rattlesnakes.

5. Not all black snakes are venomous.

In fact, many black snakes are often killed because people assume they are venomous. The racer and the kingsnake (variants of black) actually eat venomous snakes.

Venomous Snakes
shouldn’t be killed

As a friend of snakes, I realize the danger of venomous snakes. I never want to get bit by one but I still enjoy viewing them from a safe distance. I do not handle them. And I definitely don’t think they should be killed.

Venomous snakes are important to the ecosystem and habitat of nature. If we wipe out a species because we don’t like them, we effectively change the ecosystem of nature. And that isn’t good – look at climate change!

And it is also important to note that venom is used for so much good and it takes a living snake to make venom possible. Venom from copperhead snakes for example, are being used to study cures for breast cancer. Venom from snakes has also been used in Ace Inhibitors which are critical for blood pressure emergencies. The only good snake, truly, is a live snake.

Venomous or Non-Venomous
that is the question

How can you tell if a snake is venomous or not? This is hard to answer generally because in different parts of the world, the different snake species are different from other parts of the world.

For example, there are no cobras to worry about in the United States. In my parts, the three venomous snakes we have (copperhead, cottonmouth and timber rattlesnake) are all a part of the Pit Viper family.

Each of these snakes have pits above their nostrils indicating they are venomous. Their heads are also more triangular shaped because of venom glands present. Their eyes also display vertical pupils much like a cat.

It is important though to assume all snakes are venomous snakes and keep a safe distance from them. Some non-venomous snakes will do things to seem venomous as an attempt to make you avoid coming into contact with them – it’s pretty intelligent, really!

How to Survive a Snake Attack
and tell the tale

how to survive a snake attack

If you are bitten by a snake, you should assume it is venomous. Don’t try to kill or collect the snake to show to the doctors – this is a bad idea because if you get bit again, it could create more significant injuries or even quicker death.

If you are allergic to bees, expect a reaction initially from the venom-the allergic reaction could be significant. Antihistamines or an epi-pen might be what saves your life. Seek medical assistance as soon as you can or call for help.

In the backcountry, I highly recommend you carry an emergency locator beacon in case you need assistance immediately. As long as you get help in a reasonable amount of time, your chance of survival increases significantly.

Avoid a snake bite kit, it doesn’t work – venom goes right to your bloodstream and spreads quickly. A snake bite kit will only create easier infections and cause more work for medical professionals. Snake bite kits are dangerous!


To conclude this article about snake attacks and how to avoid them, let me end it with asking you to learn more about snakes. Snakes are often hated by so many people but they are merely defenseless. They have no arms or legs – just a mouth!

Imagine if that were you, wouldn’t you use what had to ensure your survival? Snakes are actually really interesting to learn about once you set aside some time into learning about them. Who knows – you might become a herp fanatic like me once you start learning more about them.

Shawn Gossman


About the Author

"The outdoors to me is the best medicine for stress and anxiety. "

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