How well do you know snakes? Do you know that Florida contains both venomous and non-venomous snakes that you are likely to come across in the wild? If you saw one, do you think you could identify it? Do you know what to do if a snake bites your pet? These are questions you should be able to answer, especially if you enjoy outdoor activities with your pet.
For starters, you want to be able to differentiate a venomous from a non-venomous snake. Many venomous snakes tend to be larger and wider in size with a broad, triangular head, and two large, hollow fangs followed by smaller hooked teeth. A real rattle at the end of a tail will indicate a rattlesnake. Many snakes will mimic the sound of a rattle by flicking their tail against leaves or a tree to scare off predators. If you find yourself to be in close proximity of a snake then you might get a glimpse at the shape of their pupils. Venomous snakes will have more of an elliptical pupil, like a cat eye, whereas non-venomous pupils are round. The traits listed above are very common for venomous snakes, but there is always an exception; the Eastern Coral Snake happens to lack all listed traits but contains venom.
The most important thing to do when a snake bites is getting your pet to the closest veterinary emergency clinic immediately. Time for your pet could be very limited so you must be swift. If the snake is still in the area, try to identify the snake by color, patterns, or any traits. This will help the veterinarian decide which antivenom to use and how to treat your pet. To slow the venom from spreading, keep your pet calm, still and positioned so the heart is not lower than the bite wound. Each bite can be different based on the snake, how much, if any, venom was injected. Do not ice the wound or attempt to aspirate venom from the wound in any way. Also, do not go after the snake because you may end up getting bitten yourself.
There are ways you can prevent your pet having a snake encounter. Be vigilant and aware when you take your dog on a walk or on a trail. Staying on pathways clear of debris will give a higher chance of snakes being visible. Keep your dog on a leash during walks and do not allow them to probe in or around holes, logs, large rocks, or trees. Many rattle snakes tend to be nocturnal, so keeping evening walks to a minimum is best. Keep your dog by your side if you hear something rustling in the leaves or bushes until you can identify it. If snakes inhabit your environment, do not allow your pets to be outside unsupervised. It’s a good idea to have a veterinary emergency clinic number saved in your phone and know the closest one to you at all times.
Common Venomous Snakes in Florida
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Coral Snake Look-A-Likes
The Eastern Coral Snake has two non-venomous look-alikes located in Florida. All three snakes have the same colors; red, yellow, and black. Since the Eastern Coral snake does not have the same traits as most venomous snakes, it may make it a harder to tell them apart because all three are very close in size. The two look-alikes both have a red nose while the Eastern Coral Snake has a black nose. If you happen to catch a glimpse of their bellies; the Eastern Coral Snake has bands that continue around its body, the Scarlet King Snake bands continue as well but start to fade at its belly, and the Scarlet Snake has a white belly. There is a riddle that can help you remember which of the three is venomous: “If red touches yellow, it kills a fellow; but if red touches black, it’s a friend of jack.”
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