Posts Tagged ‘venomous’

by , Keeper
I'm extremely excited to be working at the Museum since October 2010. My favorite part of this job- besides working with the animals- is listening to all of the Keeper stories, I hear a new one each day. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, belly dancing, and vegan cooking.
I work Sunday through Thursday. I can be found mostly behind the scenes or training the Ring Tail Lemurs.

To kill a copperhead…

June 11th, 2012

Spring is almost over, it’s nice and warm and lots of animals have made an appearance. We often see the gray fox and groundhogs here at the museum. One animal that’s had a lot of sightings lately is the copperhead snake. I know a lot of people freak out when they hear about venomous snakes in the area. But they are here, they live in North Carolina and are abundant in our area. People’s first response it to kill a copperhead or even any other snake for that matter. I wanted to talk a little about why you shouldn’t kill them.

Excellent Copperhead Camouflage

From the article Snakes: Nature’s Beneficial Ally–The Role of Snake

  • Snakes play a beneficial role in helping to control rodent populations. Rodents can carry diseases and parasites that can be spread to humans. Left unchecked, rodents can destroy crops and invade homes in search of food. Rodents have been the culprits in several past plagues that have killed thousands.
  • A snake in the garden helps deter unwanted visitors such as rabbits and birds, and some snakes, like the nonvenomous king snake, even eat venomous snakes such as cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.
  • Don’t fear the snake, but do respect it. Nature has a purpose for the remarkable snake

In general if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. Most people are bitten when trying to kill or handle these snakes. Copperheads are not aggressive reptiles. They are venomous but their bite is not often fatal.

Copperheads can be found in most habitats, typically by streams or places with lots of vegetation. They can be found in wood piles in the backyard and here is where you should be careful. Here is some advice to discourage snakes from your backyard-from the article: Rat Snake or Copperhead, How to tell the Difference

  • The best way to discourage snakes from being close to your home is to get rid of habitat and food supply as much as possible. Store wood at least 18 inches off the ground. Keep the rodent population down by use of traps. Other than that there is really no good way to do it so it becomes important to teach your children to be cautious around any snake they see and to move away from it as quickly as they can. Use gloves and boots when working with brush and woodpiles, and be alert for movement. Snakes will normally avoid human contact.
  • Apparently marigolds are natural deterrents for snakes so you might think about planting them around areas that you would like the snakes to stay away from.
  • By allowing snakes to share your environment you can benefit from the natural pest control they provide.

Juvenile copperhead, notice the neon green tail- acts as a lure for prey

Snakes are pretty awesome animals if you take the time to learn about them. It’s important to educate yourself about the venomous and non-venomous species in your area. I wouldn’t recommend killing any snake- either you are killing an innocuous non-venomous snake or you are putting yourself in danger by interacting with a venomous species.

Join the conversation:

  1. good to know thank you

    Posted by betty linkenhoker
  2. Hello, I’m researching snake bite photos for a new National Geographic series airing this September. I’m interested in the hemotoxic snake bite photo (from a Copperhead?) Do you know who shot the photo and how I could license it for broadcast? Thanks, Ross

    Posted by Ross Warren

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by , Keeper
Hiya! I'm Mikey. That's all you get. :)
I work Tuesday through Saturday and you can usually find me training the bears, mucking with the reptiles and saying bad words in Italian to the aquatic filter systems.

No such thing as a Poisonous Snake… (Part 2)

February 13th, 2011

And now, as promised and to confuse you further, here is the second half of my posting on venomous snakes.  For a refresher on  the first part, or just cause you can’t get enough of me, here’s a link to the first half.   This posting will delve into the different types of venom that venomous species of snakes actually can possess.  Oh, and by the way- a little further down is a picture of what can happen to someone’s arm if they get bitten by a venomous snake.  It’s a little graphic, so heads up for the kiddos and those with weak stomachs!  :) Venom is not composed of a single substance, but is a toxic saliva consisting of a complex mixture of chemicals called enzymes. Almost all venoms are composed of approximately 90% proteins.  The two main types are Hemotoxic, and Neurotoxic venoms.

 Okay…

               Slightly

                             Scary

                                         Photo

                                                     Coming

                                                                    Now!!

                                                                                  Beware!!  :(

A bite with Hemotoxic venom

When it comes to venomous snakes, some (many are classed as Viperidae – including pit vipers -which can be copperheads, cottonmouths, most rattlesnakes and a number of exotic species) utilize Hemotoxic venom, which means that their venom effects the blood and organs, causing a breakdown or inflammation in the body.  It causes the destruction of red blood cells, disrupts blood clotting and also causes organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage. Hemotoxic bites are the most painful as breathing hurts and tissues start to die.  Another purpose of hemotoxic venom is aiding digestion, as the venom breaks down protein in the region of the bite, making prey easier to digest.

Cobras are types of Elapids

The other main type of venom is Neurotoxic (the snakes possessing this are usually Elapids – cobras, coral snakes, mambas, and others).  Neurotoxic venom, as per the name indicates, affect the nervous system, leading to everything from seizures up to death. Neurotoxic bites are the most deadly and dangerous.

Although we have these two wonderful different categories, no snake fits completely in each. Many snakes incorporate both neurotoxic and hemotoxic venom in their bites so when telling them apart one goes by which type is more predominant.  For instance Ophiophagous hannah(King Cobra) has predominantly neurotoxic venom while Crotalus adamanteus (Eastern diamondback rattlesnake) has predominantly hemotoxic venom.  There are also two other, and much less predominant types of venom called cytotoxic and myotoxic.  Cytotoxic  is a venom which affects the cellular tissue usually restricted to the area of the bite but can spread.  Myotoxic venom is most commonly found in the   Lancehead vipers of South America and is known to cause muscular necrosis.  It contains peptides that destroy the muscle fiber proteins and result in myonecrosis  (muscle destruction).

Venezuelan Lancehead Viper

The rattle means "GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!"

A final weird fact about venomous snakes is that most true venomous snakes don’t actually have to inject their venom into something if they don’t want to.  Venom production takes time and is costly biologically speaking – taking up energy and time for the body to produce.  So unless it’s to procure food, the snake does not want to expend it’s precious venom because then it may possibly be left defenseless until it can produce more.  So snakes can actually do what is called a “dry bite” and bite something as a bluff to be left alone, but not inject any toxin at all.  Half of all rattlesnake bites are dry.  This is why many snakes have so many warning strategies.  From warning colors, to hoods, to rattles, venomous snakes do everything in their power to avoid biting the enemy.

So now that you have a better understanding of venomous snakes, always remember that it’s never a good idea to muck with one.  If you see one in the wild, give it a wide berth and keep well away.  Believe it or not, the great majority of venomous snakebites are gotten when someone is messing with a snake who only wants to be left alone.  Over 60% of them involve alcohol too by the way.  See?  Booze makes us smarter AND better looking!  (Note, sarcasm…)  :)

Don't Muck With It!!

Venomous snakes only use their weapon to eat and as a last resort defense.  Always do your best to respect them and leave them be.  They are an important part of our environment, eating huge numbers of rodents each year.  We leave them alone, and they’ll do the same for us.

Join the conversation:

  1. Volunteer Comment :

    Nice job, Mikey! Have you ever been bitten by a snake? What kind?
    Karyn

    PS- are you the one on the left or right of your profile picture? :)

    Posted by Karyn Traphagen
  2. Thanks for this overview, and also the extra info on spitting cobras in the comments! I personally don’t need any extra incentives to stay away from snakes, but it is very interesting information!

    Posted by Libby
  3. Hiya Karyn!
    Sure I’ve been bitten by a snake before- you can’t work with them for years without a little nip here or there. Fortunately nothing venomous has ever tagged me -I’m VERY incredibly careful of course whenever I handle those guys! But when it comes to non-venomous, I’ve been bitten by a few different species. Rat snakes, Racers, water snakes and at least one very gripey African Rock Python :)

    As for my picture – I’d say I’m the better looking one, but Gus might have me on that one- so I’m going with the fact that I have less facial hair (even without shaving that day!).

    Posted by Mikey
  4. do it hurt

    Posted by gwendolyn
  5. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it sooo skiny!

    Posted by gwendolyn
  6. if you have just been baet by a snake what can you do to stay alive

    Posted by Liyabona
  7. Director Comment :

    Remain calm and seek medical attention quickly if a venomous snake bites you.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels
  8. I have never seen anything dangerous than this so I really feel sori for this poor guy hope u get well soon.

    Posted by sanjana
  9. Snakes r incredible especially poisonous ones but r also very dangerous so stay safe pliz.

    Posted by shanish

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by , Keeper
Hiya! I'm Mikey. That's all you get. :)
I work Tuesday through Saturday and you can usually find me training the bears, mucking with the reptiles and saying bad words in Italian to the aquatic filter systems.

No such thing as a Poisonous Snake… (Part 1)

February 7th, 2011

Hello out there in TV Land!  Your friendly neighborhood Mikey checking in again with another fun blog about odd animal facts.  This one concerns a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and one which I have been told is a staple of my reptile programs, wherever I have done them.  A few months ago Jill wrote up a similar posting.  Allow me to elaborate on it a little more.  My topic is going to be the Venomous VS. Poisonous debate. with a main emphasis on snakes.  Also, this posting is going to be in two parts- the first will delve into the differences between venomous and poisonous and the second will go into detail about the predominantly different types of snake venom and their effects.

I know all of you have heard of cobras, and rattlesnakes, and copperheads and other dangerous snakes, right?  And chances are that whenever you’ve heard or spoke of them, the term “Poisonous” has been brought up?  Many people refer to the dangerous serpents as “poisonous snakes”.  Here’s the fun part!  There’s no such thing as a poisonous snake! The term itself is not correct – any snake possessing toxicity is in actuality a “Venomous” snake.  Now, I know you guys are shaking your head and saying that they’re the same thing, but believe you me, it isn’t true!  The term is properly applied depending on the animal’s (or plant’s) mode of introducing it’s toxin into something else’s system.

Venomous

Venomous

Venomous

Venomous is when the toxin is injected into something else, be it a bite or a sting or whatnot. Poisonous is when the toxin is eaten or absorbed through the skin.  Snakes can be venomous, as can scorpions, spiders, many fish and even bees (that’s why the sting hurts so much!).  But no snake is poisonous, -you can eat a snake (although I don’t advise it) without getting envenomated.  Things that are poisonous include many amphibians, a large number of plants (ever heard of poison ivy?), and my sisters cooking.

Poisonous

Poisonous

Poison Ivy...Very Dangerous!

Coming soon… the Sequel!  Where we talk about all the fun effects venom can have!  Don’t touch that dial!  :)

Join the conversation:

  1. What about spitting cobras? How is their venom delivered?

    Posted by Libby
  2. Hey Mikey, good post!.

    It’s a tough concept for some folks to grasp, the difference between 
poisonous and venomous. But let’s face it, most people don’t really 
care what you call it. If you step on Copperhead (or a lionfish) or you mess with 
poison ivy (cartoon villain or plant), you’re going suffer for it.
    When I read “no such thing as a poisonous snake” I thought to myself, “surely, somewhere in this big old world there is a poisonous snake.” I found two. These snakes get their toxicity from eating other animals which are toxic, such as newts and toads.
    The first is a garter snake in western US which eats toxic newts and retains the toxin in its liver: . I’m not sure if this helps the snake avoid becoming prey itself, but a local fox would probably not eat two of these snakes.
    The second, keelback snakes in SE Asia: which actually seem to use, and advertise, the toxicity acquired from eating toxic toads as a defensive measure against being eaten themselves. The toxin is contained in glands on the snake’s neck and makes them distasteful to those who would think about eating them (the snake).

    Posted by Ranger Greg
  3. Hey there Libby!

    Yes, spitting cobras are venomous as well – they are elapids like other cobras and their venom is primarily Neurotoxic in nature. They actually will “spit” their venom from their fangs, which actually means they are contracting the muscles around the venom glands and forcing the venom out small holes in the fangs. They generally aim at their targets eyes. And they are usually pretty accurate to distances up to 6 feet, although they can spray their venom over 12 feet in some species!
    They can also deliver a perfectly venomous bite if they so desire, and the thinking is that they developed the spitting adaptation because most species live in areas where they may be trampled by the hooves of herding animals such as antelope.
    So if you venture to Africa, or some parts of Asia to visit, watch wear you step and keep your sunglasses on. Even at night- that makes you cooler. Like ones of the Blues Brothers. :)

    Posted by Mikey
  4. Hey Ranger Greg!
    Thanks for the extra thoughts! I know a number of animals retain toxicity due to their diet such as Poison Dart Frogs and even sometimes Box Turtles (gotta love those mushrooms they eat!).

    Good to know of the snakes – I tried to do a little research but couldn’t come up with much, but do you think that Eastern Hognose snakes retain any toxicity since their diet is primarily toads? I know there is an ongoing debate about them being harmless or a very low level venomous, but what about the possibility of them being slightly poisonous due to retained toad toxin? Any ideas?

    Posted by Mikey
  5. Not sure about the hognose snake.
    If it is toxic, it probably doesn’t “know it.” After all, one of it’s main defense strategies is to roll over and play dead.
    The garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) eats a very toxic newt (Taricha spp.), but I ‘m not even sure that it realizes its own toxicity.
    However the keelback snake of SE Asia (R. tigrinus) is toxic and lets everyone know it! It has a bright yellow throat which it displays when threatened by a predator (http://www.pnas.org/content/104/7/2265.full) “Go ahead, take a bite. I dare ya!”

    Posted by Ranger Greg
  6. Love your post, but unfortunately you are still wrong. A snake soaked in warfarin and eaten for dinner is a poisonous snake.

    Posted by Tim
  7. Actually there are poisonous snakes. For the life if me I can’t remember what they are. And I do mean poisonous, as in eating one would be dangerous.

    Posted by Jim Jameson
  8. I should have read Ranger Greg’s post

    Posted by Jim Jameson
  9. Not True at all there is a small group of snakes called Keeled Backed snakes that actually have both venom and poison glands

    Posted by Charles Kendrick

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by , Keeper
I graduated from NCSU(go pack) and have worked in the animal department for about 8 years. Some of my favorites include ferrets and birds. I am also known for my weird obsession with Boba Fett.
I work Tuesday-Saturday in either the Farmyard or inside the main building behind the scenes.

Poisonous vs. Venomous

November 5th, 2010

Sometimes while walking through Carolina Wildlife, I see a lot of visitors point to our copperhead or rattlesnake and say “that’s a poisonous one.” Mistakenly, that is an untrue statement.A few blog posts ago, I stated that “all raptors are birds of prey, but not all birds of prey are raptors.” Well, I got another one for you, “all venom is a poison, but not all poisons are a venom.”An animal that injects a toxin into you is venomous while if you touch or ingest a toxin that makes you sick, you are poisoned.Some mushrooms, plants or amphibians are poisonous while some reptiles, spiders,fish,insects and even mammals  are venomous. One of our animals, the King snake can eat venomous snakes without being poisoned because they need to be injected instead of ingested.An example of a mammal that is venomous is the platypus and a few shrews.These toxins can affect blood,tissue cells and  nerves.

Photo courtesy of Wiki alpl

Join the conversation:

  1. Hello, I’m researching snake bite photos for a new National Geographic series airing this September. I’m interested in the hemotoxic snake bite photo (from a Copperhead?) Do you know who shot the photo and how I could license it for broadcast? Thanks, Ross

    Posted by Ross Warren
  2. Can you tell me which photo it is and where?
    The one that is attached to this post(orange hazard) was in Wiki.

    Posted by Jill

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

More on venomous snakes

January 11th, 2008

My last post on the tools we use to work with our venomous snakes led to some good questions… like what is the difference between venomous and poisonous?

As keepers talking to visitors, we try really carefully to use the correct terminology, but most people use the words venomous and poisonous interchangeably. Technically speaking, they are different. For feeding or self defense, venomous animals produce and store venom and deliver it through a specific set of organs. Examples of venomous animals include some snakes (like our copperhead and rattlesnake) and some spiders, as well as stingrays, bees, and gila monsters. While venom is injected, poison is either ingested or absorbed through the skin. Poisonous animals have a toxic substance that is distributed throughout their body tissues. Poisonous animals and plants have a great defense mechanism against things that want to eat them. Sometimes, poisonous animals will have very obvious warning signs, like the bright colors of the poison dart frog.

Where we see beautiful colors, potential predators see “Don’t eat me or you’ll be sorry!” You can see poison dart frogs up close here at the Museum in our Butterfly House. It’s usually pretty easy to find a poisonous plant just a few steps from your door. If you’ve ever itched incessantly for a few days, it’s likely you stumbled upon the “leaves of 3” poison ivy plant.

Read a neat article about poison ivy and climate change at Science News

As far as venomous snakes go here in the Triangle, we only have one! It’s the copperhead, and it is best left alone, although its bite is rarely fatal to healthy adults, kids, or even dogs (one of our wolves was bitten a few years ago and had 3 swollen and painful days, but was OK otherwise). Read more about copperheads in N.C. and how to avoid a bite : http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm

Venomous snakes are an important part of the web of life, helping control rodent populations. So if you see one, give it a nod of gratitude for the job it does, a smile for the beauty of its biology, and a wide berth out of respect for its venom!

Join the conversation:

  1. Great post! Thanks for answering my questions, and I really like the example of the poison dart frog – they’re one of my favorite things to look at in the whole Museum.

    Posted by Jeff Stern
  2. Wow what a stunning frog. I would love to do a pencil drawing of this frog and print it on t-shirts to sell. I do respect copyright though – what are your thoughts please?

    Posted by Sarah Berney
  3. Director Comment :

    Hi Sarah
    Glad you like the frog. Please draw what you wish, and just site the Museum Blog as being your reference for the frog photo. Or, come visit the Museum and go look at the poison dart frogs in the Insectarium and draw them from a real life model.

    Posted by Sherry Samuels

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by , Keeper
I am most famous here in the animal department for "expanding" the barred owl exhibit, clogging the wolf pool, and splitting my pants. My other less notorious work, since 2003, includes keeping, purchasing our animal supplies, coordinating our volunteers, and managing our animal enrichment program.
Find me training the lemurs or in other various animal enclosures Monday through Friday, or at the grocery store on Wednesdays, when I shop for produce!

working with venomous snakes

January 2nd, 2008


Being a keeper employs a variety of tools; some of the most important ones are used in the husbandry of our two venomous snakes, the Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), and the Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). We work entirely hands off with these two snakes, and have a very strict safety protocol. Two keepers always work together, and extra tools are near the door in case help is needed. The first of these tools is the radio (walkie-talkie) on our belt. Before feeding, cleaning, or changing their water, we make a radio call to inform other keepers and staff that we are opening the snakes’ doors. If for any reason we should need help during the process, the radio call ensures that other people are aware of what’s happening. The silver tongs (to the left of the broom in the picture) help us to handle the water dish, or pick up feces or a shed (a snakeskin) without putting an arm or hand within striking range of the snake. The hook ( to the right of the broom) is used manipulate the snake, and the trash can (with some warm bath water) is where we put the snake while cleaning it’s exhibit. Hooking a snake takes a lot of practice and skill. You have to balance the snake with it’s midsection on the hook. Often the snake will be moving, and can sometimes slide off your hook onto the floor. The broom is the perfect tool to pin a snake against the floor if need be, without hurting it, and can act as a shield between you and the snake. When it comes time to weigh our venomous snakes (about twice a year) we use the white snake bag (on the floor in the picture). The bag actually comes off of its handle and we can tie the top closed. We hook the snake into the bag, tie it off, remove from handle and then set it on the scale. We have to remember to subtract the weight of the bag to get the snake’s actual weight! The next time we weigh snakes, I’ll get a few pics!
There’s a great book on N.C. snakes (available in our gift shop) that can teach you more about venomous snakes, and don’t miss viewing these tools in action every Thursday at 4:00 at our Snake Feeding program!
Another pic of the tongs, snake bag, and our two venomous residents:

Join the conversation:

  1. Nice post! Perhaps this is a good place to explain the difference between venomous and poisonous as well?

    Posted by Jeff Stern
  2. Good point Jeff. The very brief answer is venom is injected, while poison is ingested.Look for a future post on this topic.

    Posted by kristen
  3. Thanks for the posts! We love looking behind the scenes. The snakes have been a favorite of ours for years. I like that the windows are down very low for good viewing by the little ones.

    Posted by Valerie
  4. I’m very interested in working with venomous snakes.

    Posted by Matt

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