Kids at Bell Library learn about Florida’s snakes

The Bell Library requested a speaker from the Gilchrist Soil and Water Conservation to give a talk on Florida Snakes on Tuesday, June 23. The speaker brought along a few friends……one in particular gave his life for education you might say. What could that have been, you are asking? The youth did not see a mounted rattlesnake that was cleverly placed next to a flower pot in the library, where the youth were passing by, and some even walked closer to look at some books, all the while never looking down. The reason for this placement was to call to the attention of everyone, that a venomous snake can be very close and never make a sound. The youth were amazed at the fact they never saw the snake and they were all around it for about 15 minutes before the snake was pointed out to them. The adults were very impressed that they too did not notice a snake that close to everyone. (The snake was shown to the librarians so they were aware that this was NOT a live rattlesnake)

Children attending Bell Library’s summer youth program recently learned about Florida’s snakes.

The youth were asked about how many snakes lived in Florida? Some replied with 100’s, 60, 30……actually there are about 44-45 snakes in Florida. The youth were then asked how many of these were venomous. Again, the response was over- whelming, as some replied, all of them. To their amazement, they learned Florida has only 6 known venomous snakes. Can you, the reader, name them? The six venomous snakes in Florida are: Eastern Diamondback rattler, pigmy rattler, canebrake rattler, copperhead, cottonmouth water moccasin and coral snake. The next question asked was what type venom do these snakes produce? There are two types of venom; one is a hemotoxin which affects the red blood cells, and the other is neurotoxin which affects the nervous system. Of these 6 venomous snakes, which one produces the neurotoxin venom? If you answered a Coral Snake, you are correct. A myth about this snake is that many seem to think this snake can only bite you in a soft area, such as between your fingers, toes, etc…. and many think this snake will not strike and bite. This snake will strike a person the same as any other snake when threatened. This includes being cornered or picked up. Though their fangs are in the rear of their mouth, don’t underestimate, when they bite they are chewing and injecting venom. Another question was asked, what is the difference between poison and venom? There are people who will tell you a snake is poisonous….wrong! Poison is ingested and venom is injected. A snake injects venom; the only way you could possibly think you have been poisoned by a snake is if you were to cut and suck a venomous snake bite and have an infection in your mouth, then you could maybe say you were poisoned. But think about this, you ingested the venom; the snake did not inject you through his needle like fangs.
The youth were able to look at a venomous snake’s pupil. There is a difference; do you know what it is? A venomous snake’s pupil is elliptical, much like that of a cat. A non-venomous snake’s pupil is round, like ours with the exception of the venomous coral snake, who has a round pupil. There was also a replica of a cottonmouth water moccasin and a rubber coral snake. The youth learned that a water moccasin is very aggressive and will not necessarily run from danger. They are territorial and will defend their area. Most other snakes if left alone will leave the area when you walk into it, but the water moccasin will not always leave.
The youth learned that not all venomous snakes inject venom when they bite; they usually are giving a warning and the bite is what is called a dry bite. 40% of venomous snake bites worldwide receive NO VENOM! You have up to 12 hours to seek medical help. Regardless, should one get bitten by a snake, seek medical help as soon as possible.
The youth learned not to CUT and SUCK, DO NOT USE A TOURNIQUET and DO NOT APPLY ICE, stay calm, treat for shock; seek medical assistance as soon as possible. There is a very well-known gentleman, named Maynard Cox who lives here in Florida. He will tell you if you are bitten in one of the four main truck lines in your body with a high dose of venom, you will more than likely be dead in less than 10 minutes. Don’t wait; go immediately to the hospital.
The youth were also told that all snakes have a purpose and are beneficial to our world. We should never kill a snake just because it is a snake. They take care of the sick, injured or old animals that they are capable of eating. They are important to our planet and beneficial to everyone. Understanding their purpose benefits everyone.
The youth enjoyed this experience and hopefully a better understanding of our Florida snakes.