If you are an experienced herper and you’re bitten by a deadly venomous snake in Thailand you have seconds to get the snake off you – the more time you take, the greater the chance you are in a life or death situation.
The problem with venomous snakes is that they chew the venom into their victim. The longer you let a snake stay attached to you, the more likely you are to suffer serious complications from the bite – including envenomation (venom injected).
It’s almost unbelievable, no, it IS unbelievable to me that Joe Slowinski – an accomplished herpetologist, let a Many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) bite down on his finger for 10 seconds before getting it off. Perhaps he felt no fang pierce the skin, and so thought he was OK to ease the snake off his finger. Nobody that was there reported that. It’s just a guess. Why else would he let the snake bite that long? This is the #3 most toxic territorial snake in the world – and he definitely knew that the instant he was bitten. He died as a result of the bite some 30+ hours later after failing to get a helicopter to his remote location in Northern Burma.
Anyway, so, don’t let the snake bite down on you for more time than it takes to immediately get it off in the case of a cobra, krait, coral snake, or viper. All of these snakes can put you in grave danger of losing your life.
What is the proper way to remove a venomous snake? Great question – and I don’t know. In all the hundreds – or even thousands of videos I’ve watched about snakes, not one person has ever showed HOW.
I’ll ask a couple herpetologists today and add their responses to this snake note.
Ok, here is what I found out. Basically some advice from those that deal with snakes – venomous and non-venomous – a lot.
1. All venomous snakes are dangerous. Even those that are listed as “Mildly Dangerous” or something else here on this site.
2. Snakes have bad days, headaches, other aches, and other things that put them in agitated moods without you doing anything to cause it. Today is not like every other day with your snake, be extra careful everyday and don’t take the snake for granted.
3. Even small snakes can bite down hard and start chewing before you realize what is happening. Once they start chewing, and once the bite lasts for longer than a second or two – assume venom is being injected into your body and get the snake off you immediately. A 12 year old boy in Phuket, Thailand was bitten by his pet Rhabdophis subminiatus (red-necked keelback) and was in the hospital for 14 days with serious complications. He did pull through though.
4. If a snake bites down don’t pull back on the snake to pull it off you, some snakes have curved teeth (some more than others) and you risk ripping your skin, ripping the teeth off the snake, and making the wound worse.
5. Try grabbing the tail and petting it strongly by rubbing the scales backward – against the lay, ruffling them. This works well with most snakes.
6. Try holding the snake under water – submerged.
7. Try running very warm water over the snake’s head until it releases.
8. Try bending the tail up and backward – this causes a lot of pain in the snake, and even pythons are said to release their bite at this.
9. If you don’t particularly care if you kill the snake while removing it – you can pour rubbing alcohol over the snakes head – it should release. It may die though.
10. If you have vodka, whiskey, or some other strong drinking alcohol to pour over the head – that works well.
If you are bitten by a krait or a cobra, coral snake, or viper in the wild where water isn’t available, personally I would grab the snake behind the head – careful not to grab ON the head because the venom glands are located there on the sides of the head by the eye, and you could actually inject a lot more venom into your body than without touching those areas.
Force the snake’s mouth open and concentrate on getting the top jaw away from your skin – snake venom comes from fangs in the top of the jaw.
Remember, with deadly snakes you have very little time. You don’t have time to go find hot water or tequila, just get it off you immediately. Every second counts.
If anyone else wants to comment on this or has info to add – please write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: I found a video by some guys that get bitten many times a year. They recommend “Listerine” mouthwash to remove the snake quickly – every time. Fast forward to 2 minutes 40 seconds to see Listerine do it’s stuff.
I’ve started to bring a small container of Listerine with me in my snake bag.
Apparently they’ve used this often – and haven’t seen any negative effects on the snakes. Crazy idea – right?