Family Travel 2012

Nichole Livengood



Going hiking? Here's what to do if you see a snake

Posted 7/2/2012 3:02:00 PM

Are you afraid of snakes? When one slithers across your path, do you to run screaming in the opposite direction? I have to say that the two small snakes we’ve found in our garage this year have made my skin crawl a bit.

Ashley Berry, former Dreher Island State Park Manager, has handled more than 2,000 snakes in his life and travels around in his free time teaching others to appreciate the misunderstood critter. He says snakes are more friend than foe.

If you’re hiking or enjoying the great outdoors in South Carolina this summer, it’s possible you’ll come across one. Here are some tips to help keep you safe:

1. First, let’s clear up a common myth. Identifying a non-poisonous snake by head and eye shape or color can be a dangerous mistake. Berry says there is no conclusive way to distinguish a poisonous snake from a non-poisonous snake, so the number one rule is never mess with a wild snake.

2. Protect yourself by staying on the path. You are more likely to see a snake in less traveled areas at dusk or right at daybreak. Berry recently hiked more than 60 miles at Hickory Knob State Park. In 50 miles of trail he didn’t see a single snake, but when he stepped out into the woods he saw about a dozen snakes, including Black, Rat, Garter and Easter King, all of them non-poisonous.

3. If you see a snake, do not panic. Back away or give it some space and go around it. If a snake doesn’t feel threatened, it won’t bother you. The best kind of snake is not a dead snake, he says. Some snakes like the Rat and King snakes keep other poisonous snakes and rodents away so they are good to have around.

4. If you are bitten by any type of snake, stay calm, find your car keys and immediately head to the doctor. Even if a non-poisonous snake bites you, the bacteria in its mouth can cause serious infections if not treated.

As long as you learn to protect yourself from accidental run-ins and know what to do when a snake crosses your path, there’s no reason to worry.

To learn more about South Carolina’s snakes or to get an up close and personal experience, plan a visit to the Aquarium Reptile Complex at Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo, Greenville Zoo or visit one of South Carolina’s Nature Centers at Myrtle Beach State Park, Hunting Island State Park, or Table Rock State Park.