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East Tennessee Snakes

In East Tennessee, TWRA officials say people should only have to worry about two types of venomous
snakes: copperheads and timber rattlesnakes.
Snakes are abundant across Tennessee with 32 different types of snakes in the state; however only 4 of
them are venomous: Northern and Southern Copperheads, Timber Rattlesnake Western Cottonmouths,
and Western Pygmy Rattlesnakes. However, in East Tennessee there are 23 species of snakes, including
both venomous and non-venomous varieties. While most snakes are harmless to humans, some can be
pretty dangerous. In the Eastern part of the state the venomous snakes include the copperhead and timber
Snakes thrive in Tennessee because of the State’s varied climate and abundance of wooded hillside
forests. Snakes are most active during the early spring and early summer when they are feeding and
While Tennessee is home to venomous snakes the good news is that snakebite deaths in the Volunteer
State remain relatively low, just as they do across the USA. It is estimated that over 7,000 people fall
victim to snakebites in the country each year, with less than five dying as a result.
When it comes to snake bites, there are a lot of variables that can affect how serious the bite is. In general,
though, snake bites fall into one of two categories: dry bites and venomous bites.
Dry bites are relatively common and usually not very dangerous. These bites typically occur when a snake is feeling threatened and wants to send a warning
signal. Usually, only a tiny amount of venom is released, if any at all.
Venomous bites, on the other hand, are much more severe. These bites inject a large amount of poison into the victim’s body, which can cause serious health
problems. If you’re ever bitten by a snake, it’s essential to seek medical attention immediately to receive the appropriate treatment.
Snakes are most active during the early spring and early summer when they are feeding and breeding. As scorching summer temperatures begin to decrease
in late summer and early fall, snake activity increases in Tennessee. Due to the cooler temperatures, numerous
snake species become more active throughout the day during the autumn months. Late summer
and early fall are baby snake seasons when certain snake clutches (snake eggs) start to hatch.
Snakes are active both day and night. The season influences when they are most active. For example,
snakes typically sleep around sundown during the cooler months and do not reawaken until the morning.
During the summer, it might be the opposite.
To conserve energy, snakes and other reptiles go into a state termed “brumation.” Unlike hibernation,
brumation requires less sleep. They will forage for food and water but may survive extended periods
without feeding. A snake may go weeks without eating, drinking, defecating, or moving.
Depending on the conditions, a snake’s brumation period might last from September to December. The
first thing snakes notice when they leave their den is the temperature change. Snakes hide in caves to stay
warm in the wild. Snakes will even share their dens during the winter months to stay warm.
Brumation can begin anytime from September to December and last until March or April. Because
snakes are cold-blooded, they can’t regulate their body temperatures like warm-blooded animals can.
Eastern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
Most people call the eastern copperhead, simply, the copperhead. It’s named for the distinct bronze color
that tops the head, which kick-starts a color pattern that runs the whole length of the body. These guys are invariably totally tan brown or auburn, usually with
a camo pattern formed by circles and squiggles of dark coffee brown or even black. The average length is between 24 and 36 inches, making them a medium-
sized member of the most dangerous snakes in Tennessee. Females grow to greater lengths than males, but males have longer tails than females.
The snake most often mis-identified as a copperhead is the harmless juvenile Eastern Ratsnake.
The copperhead is thought to be present in all four corners of the Volunteer State. It can live from the low hills of Appalachia in the east to the rolling gallery
woods and riparian lands of the Tennessee River in the west. It’s one of the most geographically successful snakes in America – you’ll find it anywhere from
Nebraska to the eastern coast, and as far south as the Mexican border in Texas.
Copperhead venom is hemotoxic and damages the tissue around the injection site. It addition, there is swelling, necrosis, and damage to the circulatory system.
While this may seem terrifying it is all relatively localized. While the bite may be painful, copperhead bites are only mildly dangerous to most people.
The venom of a copperhead is actually less dangerous than most pit vipers. Of the 2,920 people bitten annually by copperheads, just .01% result in fatalities.
While most people consider all snakes to be “out to get them”, this is actually far from the truth. Most snakes want to avoid humans, especially the copperhead.
In fact, most copperheads will give a warning bit to an encroaching human. These warning bites don’t inject venom and are known as a “dry bite”, requiring
no antivenom administration. With the reluctance that copperheads have to bite the likelihood of receiving a dry bite if they do strike, and the relatively
low toxicity of their venom, these snakes are among the least dangerous venomous snakes in the US.
Copperheads are diurnal (active during daylight hours) during early spring and late fall, at which time they will generally depend on the ability of their bodies
to blend in with their environment to obtain prey and avoid enemies.
To help repel copperheads around your house some research plants may to be used. They include Indian lemongrass, onion plants, garlic plants, marigolds,
and Viper’s Bowstring Hemp to name a few.
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
The Crotalus horridus, or Timber rattlesnake is by far the biggest and deadliest of all the dangerous snakes in Tennessee. They’re known to inject a whole
load of venom at every single bite incident, and that venom is pretty potent stuff, too. It consists of canebrake toxin that breaks down both skeletal and muscle
tissue and has all sorts of full-body implications, one most notable of all: Death.
Thankfully, experts have noted the infrequency of bite incidents attributed to the timber rattlesnake. That’s largely been put down to the fact that they perform
considerably long warning routines to would-be victims, including loud rattling of the tail and even attack dances. Also, Timber rattlers are easier to spot than
other types of North American pit vipers, largely due to their size and coloring…
These guys can reach something in the region of 2.5 – 5 feet, although there have been reports of timber rattlesnakes growing up to 7 feet in length. The
normal weight of a rattlesnake is usually 1-3 pounds, however, some large specimens have been reported reaching nearly 10 pounds. Usually, the tint is dark
brown over the whole body, with a touch of orangey or lighter brown crossbands and geometric patterns forming chevron murals down the back.
You’re most likely to encounter a timber rattlesnake during their active season, which runs from the
middle of May to the end of October. After that, the snakes will usually retreat to a rocky outcrop or den
for hibernation until the start of spring the following year. They like to live in highly forested areas and
higher terrain that’s got both exposed ridge and tussock grass meadows. But be sure to watch out for
them if you’re heading to the Appalachian peaks of eastern Tennessee in particular, though they do live
all over the state. They are the state’s largest and most dangerous venomous snake. With vertical pupils
and a distinctive rattle at the tail’s end, this enormous, triangular-headed snake can grow to be 3 to 6 feet
in length and has vertical eyes and a unique rattle.
If you’re bitten by a snake, your symptoms will differ depending on which type of bite it is. If you
suffer a dry snake bite, you’ll likely just have swelling and redness around the area of the bite. But if
you’re bitten by a venomous snake, you’ll have more widespread symptoms, which commonly include:
Bite marks on your skin.
Venomous snakes tend to have more triangular heads, while non-venomous snakes have more rounded
heads. Additionally, venomous snakes often have a distinctive pit between their eye and nostril, which
they use to detect heat and locate prey. Non-venomous snakes do not have this pit. Another key difference
is in their pupils.
If You or Someone Else is Bitten by a Snake:
* Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it. This may put you or someone else at risk for a bite.
* Do not apply a tourniquet.
* Do not slash the wound with a knife.
* Do not suck out the venom.
* Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.

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