MCAS Cherry Point News


Venomous snakes reside aboard Cherry Point

6 May 2011 | Pfc. Cory D. Polom

As temperatures begin to rise, so does the risk of being bitten by a venomous snake. These snakes come in a variety of colors, sizes and variations. The best way to prevent a snake bite is by avoiding all snakes.

The four types of venomous snakes aboard Cherry Point include the cottonmouth, copperhead, and the pygmy and timber rattle snakes.

A cottonmouth is black, brown or olive colored with lighter bands on its side and is typically found in wetland areas such as rivers and lakes.

A copperhead is tan to brown with hour-glass shaped crossbands down the length of the body. Its tail has a green or yellow hue. It is the most commonly encountered venomous snake here.

A pygmy rattler is gray in color with black blotches all over its body, including the underside and inhabits swamps, marshes, wet prairies and floodplains.

A timber rattler has a base color of pale gray, tan or peach with dark cross-bands across the back and is typically found occupying heavily timbered second-growth areas where rodents are abundant.

“The worst thing about interacting with these snakes is the risk of being bitten,” said Alan D. Steinhauer, a U.S. Conservation Law Enforcement officer aboard Cherry Point. “If one of these venomous snakes bites you, you are in for a lot of pain.”

Symptoms of a venomous bite include discharge of blood from the wound, marks on the skin and swelling at the wound, severe pain around the snake bite, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness and fainting.

If a person is bitten by a snake, they should seek immediate medical attention, Steinhauer said. A person should stay calm, wash the bite with soap and water, and if it is going to take longer than 30 minutes to arrive at a medical facility, apply a bandage two to four inches above the bite.

Steinhauer said to ensure enough pressure is applied to the bite, so it can then slow the spread of the snake’s venom.

For years, one Cherry Point resident has used a simple method to ward off snakes. However, he has not been fortunate enough to avoid all snakes.

“Mothballs work great for keeping snakes out of your yards,” said John M. Ruth, a safety specialist with the joint safety office aboard Cherry Point. “I usually put some along my fence line once a year, and it keeps the snakes out of my yard. This year I hadn’t gotten to it, and we had two copperheads come into our yard.”

Ruth said his big, black Labrador retriever, Gus, had cornered one of the two snakes, and one snake bit the dog on the nose.

“Gus is alright and he is going to live, but it just goes to show you the importance of avoiding these and all snakes,” said Ruth. “My father always tells me copperheads travel in pairs. So if you see one, be prepared for another in the area.”

There are many ways to avoid snake bites. Stay away from tall grass, watch where you walk, remain on running paths, and do not try to handle a snake unless trained to do so.

“Ways to help keep away and avoid snakes in your yard are to keep your grass mowed,” said Steinhauer. “Avoid wood piles, other rubble piles and shrubbery.”

Steinhauer said last year he was called to a home on Cherry Point twice in one night to remove six copperhead snakes that were living in pallets of wood behind the home.

“Most snakes are harmless unless provoked,” said Steinhauer. “Families need to sit their children down and explain to them the dangers of snakes. If they happen to see a snake, move away from the snake and call a conservation officer immediately.”

If a snake is spotted, regardless of whether it’s venomous or not, call the U.S. Conservation Law Enforcement Agency at 466-3242, or, if after hours, contact the provost marshal’s office at 466-3615 to have the snake removed.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point