Out of an estimated 80,000 venomous U.S. snake bites in the 2010’s, 25 people have died. 11 of these bites were from attempts to kill, relocate or handle venomous snakes. 7 of these 11 bites were during a religious service or from pet venomous snakes.
16 of these 25 bites were from, or assumed from, rattlesnakes. It’s estimated 20%-25% of rattlesnake bites are dry bites, meaning no venom is injected. 6 of these 25 bites were worsened by a refusal of medical care and/or an underlying condition. 10 of these bites were accidental. This puts the chance of dying from a snakebite at nearly 0%.
A snake will only strike if feels it has no other choice for defense or feels threatened. Snakes do not hunt or intentionally seek out humans, as we are a natural predator to them and worthless as food.
They cannot eat us, so we are not worth their time to bite unless provoked. In fact, the only snake proven to have actually eaten an adult man, was a 26’+ long, 220lb python in Indonesia. Pythons are not native to America, but are invasive in the swamps of Florida and South Georgia. The largest ever found was 18’ and weighed 104lbs. They are hunted there, but are invasive and harmful to the environment. 100% of the native snakes of America are not. Otherwise, the largest snake native to America is the eastern indigo snake, typically maxing out around 7’.
For comparison, mosquitos kill an estimated 750,000 people every year, dogs kill 59,000, crocodiles kill 1,000, lighting kills 35 and humans kill 400,000 people every year.
Native snakes of all species are valuable to the ecosystem. Some species of non-venomous snakes kill and eat venomous snakes. Yet, worldwide fear of all snakes, whether venomous or not, lead to the purposeful death of an unprecedented number of snakes per year. This is despite the fact that nearly half of the deaths from snakebites are from attempts to kill or handle snakes.
Here in the U.S., we have a natural defense against venomous species. They are a cute little snake commonly known as the “Black Snake.” This is a blanket term for the multitude of species. They’re non-venomous snakes who will kill and eat both rattlesnakes and copperheads. They are also immune to other snake venom.
These guys also keep rat populations in check, an animal that historically has contributed to several viral plagues and diseases. Rat-infested ships brought the plague to America. The death rate due to rats is unknown, as they spread/carry multiple diseases, can cause house fires from chewing wires, contaminate food, transport fleas, lice and ticks and even bite infants.
Mice and rats are food for not only non-venomous snakes, who also consume loads of ticks through their consumption of rats, but venomous snakes(including the rattlesnake) as well. Studies suggest all snakes, both non-venomous and venomous play a roll in the prevention of the spread of Lyme disease, as a single timber rattlesnake consumes an estimated 3,000~ ticks a year.
So why are so many dead snakes, both venomous and not, so proudly shown on social media every year? Why are so many dead in the road, most likely purposely killed? These snakes are worth so much more alive than dead and the threat they pose is significantly smaller than the average house dog.
Now, I’m by no means suggesting you should attempt to handle snakes on your own, as they are wildlife and should be treated as such
(left alone.) But as shown before, nearly half of the fatal snakebites in America are from attempts to handle/kill snakes. Always consult your local fish and game department or professional when the need arises to relocate any species of snake, but for the sake of the decline in the numbers of snakes, stop killing them.
The timber rattlesnake and other various species, such as the garter snake and rat snake are endangered. While they’re not “hunted,“ the stereotypes and fear surrounding them are contributing to their decline in numbers. As one of the natural predators of mice, bats(carriers of Ebola, rabies and more,) snakes keep these diseases and populations in check.
Please, take some time to read a little further and educate yourself before condemning all snakes to death. They are valuable members to the ecosystem and to human’s well-being. And for the love of God, please stop killing snakes.