While there are many different types of snakes found at New River Gorge National River, only two types are poisonous; the Northern Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake. Although these snakes are not normally aggressive, they can bite if surprised or threatened. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are an essential part of the natural ecosystem and an important component in the natural food chain. Please remember that snakes are protected at New River Gorge National River; it is illegal to harm them.
Common Traits: The copperhead and the rattlesnake share three characteristics that can quickly distinguish them from other non-venomous snakes.
1. Broad, flattened, arrow shaped heads with narrow necks, while the heads of non venomous snakes are long and slender.
2. The venomous snakes have elliptical shaped eyes similar to a cat's eye, while non venomous snakes eyes are round.
3. Sensory pits located near the nostrils are also unique to venomous snakes.
How to avoid being bitten:Stick to designated walking and biking trails.
Do not place your hands or feet where you can't see.
Keep all pets on a leash.
If you see a snake, do not provoke it or try to pick it up, just avoid it.
First Aid for a Snake Bite:Get away from the snake. Rattlesnakes and copperheads can strike at a distance equal to about half their body length and can bite more than once. Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake.
Stay calm; don't panic.
Look for signs of envenomation: severe burning pain at the site of the bite, swelling beginning within about five minutes of getting bit and progressing up the limb, discoloration and blood-filled blisters developing in 6 to 48 hours. In at least 25% of bites, no venom is injected.
If there are immediate symptoms, get help immediately.
Send someone for help; Call 911
Try to keep the affected limb lowered below the victims heart
Keep the victim as quiet and calm as possible; activity can increase venom absorption.
Seek medical help even if there is no immediate reaction. All bites can cause infection and should be treated by a physician.
DO NOT use a tourniquet, which can cause severe damage if wound too tight.
DO NOT use cold or ice; it does not inactivate the venom and can lead to frostbite
DO NOT attempt to cut the bite or suck out the venom; cutting can damage blood vessels and nerves
DO NOT consume alcoholic beverages, which can dilate vessels and compound shock