When we think of snakes, the ones that we are the most afraid of are without question, the poisonous ones like vipers. Though it is certainly more common for us to encounter non-venomous snakes, especially in our homes, it is important to understand that venomous snakes like vipers can and often do live in our backyards.
Vipers are a family of poisonous snakes that include copperheads, water moccasins, rattlesnakes and other varieties. They can be distinguished from harmless snakes by their rough scales and their diamond shaped heads, which are shaped that way to hold their venom glands. They have sharp, hollow fangs that they use to inject venom into rodents and other small animals. Vipers and other snakes enjoy out-of-the-way hiding spots, like woodpiles, overgrown vegetation, debris and high grasses, and require external heat sources to stay warm.
Why They’re Pests
Like so many household pests, our slithery intruders are seeking shelter and food. Higher snake populations are generally found in correlation to higher populations of rodents, insects and lizards so you may find that insect and rodent problems bring on a snake problem. Ultimately, they’re pests because once they make their way into your house, they’re more than happy to hang around, and nobody wants a venomous squatter with a quick temper living anywhere near them.
How Dangerous Are They?
Vipers are lightning fast strikers and can bite anything with deadly accuracy. This precision is accompanied by a very strong sense of self-preservation, which causes them to bite first and ask questions later if they feel even the slightest bit threatened. Any bite is an emergency situation which requires immediate medical attention. Children and pets are especially in danger if they come across a viper because the venom is able to spread more quickly and at a greater percentage through their smaller bodies.
If you or someone else gets bitten, call 911 and get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Try to remember the color of the snake or get a quick picture if you can-this can help the doctors find the right anti-venom quickly. Keep the wound lower than the person’s heart, and try to keep the victim calm to slow the spread of poison. Viper bites can result in anything from a scar to amputation to death depending on the speed of medical treatment and the severity of the bite, so please seek help immediately with any snakebite.
Do They Carry Disease?
Many reptiles carry salmonella in their digestive tracts, and vipers are no exception. Exposure to this requires either direct contact with the snake’s skin or with their excrement, and very few people want to get close enough to a rattler or copperhead to get infected. Outside of salmonella, it is possible for these snakes to be vectors of other bacterial infections through their bites, but if you’re bitten, obviously a secondary infection will not be your most immediate concern.
You absolutely must call a professional wildlife pest extraction team to remove any snake from your home, and especially to remove confirmed vipers. Most people aren’t willing to stick around long enough after they spot a snake to determine what kind of snake it is, but if you can, try to remember what color the snake was or quickly take a picture before calling a pest control company with a qualified wildlife division. Even a blurry cell phone picture may help determine what sort of snake you’re dealing with once your pest control team arrives. When the professionals are there, they will be able to trap and remove the snake from your premises and then help you to determine ways to exclude snakes from your home in the future.