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View Full Version : Extreme fear of snakes, what to do



Depps
03-30-2015, 19:06
Snakes are a common phobia. My fear is extreme. Since I decided to hike the AT I figured I must face this fear. I don't want to come across a rattler and panic because I know you must remain calm backing off slowly. The fear in general will make it hard in completely the trail. Anyways a week ago I went to a pet store and after 3 hours of building up courage I held a ball python. I felt good afterwards. Almost a sense of empowerment. I held a baby and than a full grown. But....they don't move too much. Days later I was going to try other snakes. Yeah....couldn't do it. They moved way too much and the employee said it may or more likely will slither up your arm. It was a corn snake. The other was a California King Snake which they probably wouldn't even let me hold if I wanted too because of their tendency to strike. Anyways, I did face my fear. I held the ball python but I felt very discouraged when attempted to to hold the corn snake. I'm not afraid of being bitten. It's their movement that scares me. Any tips or advice. All I can think of is to simply just do it.

MuddyWaters
03-30-2015, 19:08
You are confusing snakes and bears.
Its OK to run from a snake.
It wont chase you.

Depps
03-30-2015, 19:10
You're saying if I'm inches away from a rattler or cottonmouth if I react quickly and run I'll be just fine? I find that hard to believe.

MuddyWaters
03-30-2015, 19:16
Pretty much.
The only time you might worry, is if you are within half-body distance from a poisionous snake, that is the distance they can strike.

But they usually dont until they are pissed off. Most people walk by them without noticing them at full speed. The snake is as surprised as you.

The old saying is the first person wakes the snake up
The second person pisses the snake off
The third person gets bit.


Timber rattlers are usually very laid back. They are known for being so laid back you can pick them up.

Diamondbacks are high-strung and a bit more feisty.

Its really not an issue. Watch where you put your hands and feet. Problem solved.

WingedMonkey
03-30-2015, 19:58
You're saying if I'm inches away from a rattler or cottonmouth if I react quickly and run I'll be just fine? I find that hard to believe.

You won't see any Cottonmouths on the AT.

MuddyWaters
03-30-2015, 20:06
Heres some good info.http://www.herpsofarkansas.com/Snake/CrotalusHorridus

Temperament and Defense

Timber Rattlesnakes are shy and gentle. They almost always live peaceably with humans because humans almost never see Timber Rattlesnakes, even when the snakes are stepped directly beside or sometimes even stepped directly on! Timber Rattlesnakes are superbly camouflaged and rely on this as their primary means of defense. They hardly ever rattle and are even less likely to strike in defense (although we shouldn't assume that rattling will always precede a defensive strike). At least with human encounters, Timber Rattlesnakes that rattle (or even move) generally don't fare well. I think many times a human hears a rattling Rattlesnake as saying, "Hey you, come over here and beat me to death with a stick." And, for some reason, vehicles seem to be "magnetically attracted" to snakes, often times swerving far and wide to hit as many snakes as possible.
I have found that about the only time a Timber Rattlesnake will rattle is when it is approached very closely when it is on the move or when it is "bothered", such as when it is tonged and placed into a bucket. I believe these are times when a Timber Rattlesnake feel exposed and vulnerable.


The defensive display of a Timber Rattlesnake is less exaggerated than that of some western species of Rattlesnake, such as the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake. A Timber Rattlesnake will generally coil into a defensive position low to the ground, rather than raising the front part of its body high off the ground. Although it usually takes some doing to get a Timber Rattlesnake to begin rattling, once they start they may continue to rattle for some time, even after the obvious danger has passed. Along with rattling, a Timber Rattlesnake may also hiss loudly (if you can hear it over the rattling). Finally, they may also emit a foul-smelling musk (a common defensive maneuver for many species of snake).


Timber Rattlesnakes are preyed upon themselves by many natural predators, such as hawks, bobcats, coyotes, and bears.
As a final note, I often hear people tell stories about some snake that was "the meanest thing ya' ever did see...that was striking at me like crazy." I always ask if this snake acted this mean before or after it was beat half to death with a stick. Snakes, and Timber Rattlesnakes in particular, already have the right behaviors to live peaceably with humans. After working closely for several years with Timber Rattlesnakes, I can say with some assurance that they are entirely uninclined to confront any human, entirely uninclined to strike in defense, entirely uninclined to have anything to do with humans, and entirely inclined to live their lives without the dangers imposed by humans. We are the ones who need to change behaviors, to learn to appreciate the beauty and intrigue of these spectacular predators!

4eyedbuzzard
03-30-2015, 20:09
Every snake on the AT will do everything in its power not to let you even see it. Think about it. They have zero interest in meeting any creature even near your size. You are a much greater threat to them than they are to you. Every snake I've seen on the trail, and there haven't been that many, has been slithering away from me, not toward me. Just stay aware when going up over blind rock formations. That's where they sunbathe.

DLP
03-30-2015, 20:14
You're saying if I'm inches away from a rattler, if I react quickly and run I'll be just fine? I find that hard to believe. +1 to what MWaters said. Most likely, your instincts will have you jump about 4 or 6 feet away. You don't want to stand there, frozen, in the "strike zone". :)

Wooooo hoooooo on your snake and pet store experience. I'm not deathly afraid of rattlesnakes and have walked past many, but I don't really like holding snakes... even pet store snakes. You are more brave than I!

California King snakes eat rattlesnakes. You could bring one as a "pet". Just kidding. Don't do that. :)

fizz3499
03-30-2015, 20:46
Ok here is what I teach everyone I take out on trails about snakes. First know what poisonous snakes you are likely to encounter in the area you will be hiking. On the AT that would be rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. Watch where you put your hands and feet be especially careful around rocks and piles of brush. Never run from a snake they track off both heat and vibration ( which you create when you move much less run) If you are in the snakes strike range when you see it try to remain calm and slowly back away. Once you are well out of the snakes strike range try to remain still and most of the time the snake will move off on its own. If it doesn't tap the ground with your foot or a stick to encourage it move on. Keep an eye on where the snake goes and never approach or corner one. Make sure you can accurately identify these species of snakes before you hit the trail. Many people can not tell a cottonmouth from a black snake. Trust me I have been up close and personal with more then 1 poisonous snake and the advice I have given you I sound. There are 2 last things you should know 1st never attempt to kill a snake even if it has bitten you. That’s a good way to get bite a 2nd time. Last if you are already in the snakes strike range and it is coiled and ready to strike you can take throw your hat or any other object you have in its direction while at the same time trying to get out of its strike range. This is a judgment call. You are not trying to hit the snake with this maneuver but only trying to redirect where it will strike buying yourself precious moments to get out of danger. This is a last resort measure to be used only when a strike is imminent and no other viable options exist.

CalebJ
03-30-2015, 20:52
Snakes are a common phobia. My fear is extreme. Since I decided to hike the AT I figured I must face this fear. I don't want to come across a rattler and panic because I know you must remain calm backing off slowly. The fear in general will make it hard in completely the trail. Anyways a week ago I went to a pet store and after 3 hours of building up courage I held a ball python. I felt good afterwards. Almost a sense of empowerment. I held a baby and than a full grown. But....they don't move too much. Days later I was going to try other snakes. Yeah....couldn't do it. They moved way too much and the employee said it may or more likely will slither up your arm. It was a corn snake. The other was a California King Snake which they probably wouldn't even let me hold if I wanted too because of their tendency to strike. Anyways, I did face my fear. I held the ball python but I felt very discouraged when attempted to to hold the corn snake. I'm not afraid of being bitten. It's their movement that scares me. Any tips or advice. All I can think of is to simply just do it.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw

canoe
03-30-2015, 22:47
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mwthats too funny

illabelle
03-31-2015, 05:28
thats too funny

made me watch it. yep, it's funny.
also funny how true it is.

rocketsocks
03-31-2015, 06:34
Snakes are a common phobia. My fear is extreme. Any tips or advice. All I can think of is to simply just do it.
get a pet snake of the guarder variety.

Traveler
03-31-2015, 07:24
get a pet snake of the guarder variety.

Thats not a garter snake, thats a North American Death Adder, which cleverly disguise themselves as garter snakes, water snakes, milk snakes, rat snakes, bull snakes, snake snakes, and puppies.

rocketsocks
03-31-2015, 07:37
Thats not a garter snake, thats a North American Death Adder, which cleverly disguise themselves as garter snakes, water snakes, milk snakes, rat snakes, bull snakes, snake snakes, and puppies.
Ha, damn spell check...sorry:o, don't wanna kill the the guy...Garter snake. Thanks AT Traveler. :)

Pedaling Fool
03-31-2015, 08:06
It's true, the snakes you come across won't chase you, even if you run. There are snakes that will chase you, but not on the AT. However, there are instances where it may seem like a snake is chasing you. I was hiking once in Virginia and came across a ton of black snakes, I think they were massing in preparation for mating. My dog got excited and scared a few and some of them came straight at me, but I just stood still and let them pass I've seen a lot of black snakes, but never so many in one spot at one time.

I came very, very close to stepping on a rattlesnake in SNP and never saw it; I only knew it was there, because it started rattling after I passed it. I took a stick and relocated him away from the trail.

Snakes you see on the AT don't want to bite and most of the time they just sit there motionless.

bigcranky
03-31-2015, 08:32
My late hiking partner was deathly afraid of snakes before we went hiking for the first time. He thought trail would be covered in snakes, that we'd have to fight them out of our sleeping bags at night and shove them aside as we walked. We hiked together for five years and saw maybe one snake.

I do see snakes when I hike, especially in warmer weather, but almost all of them are some sort of black snake or garter snake, or one of their many relatives -- totally harmless. They are always moving as fast as they can away from me -- makes it hard to get a photo :) I figure I'll see a couple of snakes a week if I am looking for them. If I'm just hiking and not paying attention, I don't see any.

As noted above, timbler rattlers (the rattlesnakes you find on the AT) are not particularly dangerous. They will occasionally use the trail on a cold morning to catch the sun and warm up -- and that means they won't want to move since they are too cold. Just walk around him, or use a hiking stick to gently nudge him off the trail. He's very unlikely to strike unless you seriously piss him off. (Most rattlesnake bite victims are young men with bites on their hand or face. Alcohol is usually involved.)

The other poisonous snake on the AT is the copperhead. You may rarely see one warming up on the trail. Not to rain on the "snakes are wonderful" parade, but these guys are nasty little critters who do strike without warning, though 99% of the time they don't use any venom -- they don't want to eat you, just to make you go away. Again, don't try to pick him up. :)

Of course, none of this helps with a serious phobia, which it seems you may have. Good on you for checking out the snakes at the pet store (and I understand the corn snake thing -- my daughter has a corn snake for a pet, and they never stop moving and exploring, unlike the pythons and boas who will just wrap around you and sleep). But if this issue is that serious, you might want to have a professional help with the desensitizing treatment.

Good luck.

Alleghanian Orogeny
03-31-2015, 11:34
Ok here is what I teach everyone I take out on trails about snakes. First know what poisonous snakes you are likely to encounter in the area you will be hiking. On the AT that would be rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. Watch where you put your hands and feet be especially careful around rocks and piles of brush. Never run from a snake they track off both heat and vibration ( which you create when you move much less run) If you are in the snakes strike range when you see it try to remain calm and slowly back away. Once you are well out of the snakes strike range try to remain still and most of the time the snake will move off on its own. If it doesn't tap the ground with your foot or a stick to encourage it move on. Keep an eye on where the snake goes and never approach or corner one. Make sure you can accurately identify these species of snakes before you hit the trail. Many people can not tell a cottonmouth from a black snake. Trust me I have been up close and personal with more then 1 poisonous snake and the advice I have given you I sound.There are 2 last things you should know 1st never attempt to kill a snake even if it has bitten you. That’s a good way to get bite a 2nd time. Last if you are already in the snakes strike range and it is coiled and ready to strike you can take throw your hat or any other object you have in its direction while at the same time trying to get out of its strike range. This is a judgment call. You are not trying to hit the snake with this maneuver but only trying to redirect where it will strike buying yourself precious moments to get out of danger. This is a last resort measure to be used only when a strike is imminent and no other viable options exist.



Cottonmouths? Along the AT? Not likely. The cottonmouth/water moccasin is a lowland snake whose identified range includes much of GA and the Carolinas, but does not include the the Blue Ridge of GA, or anywhere along the AT from Springer to Maine.

AO

Sarcasm the elf
03-31-2015, 11:47
At the risk of being a grammar nazi, please remember that we are talking about Venomous snakes, not Poisonous snakes...:sun

[Side note: I nearly misspelled the word grammar in the post above :eek:]

Feral Bill
03-31-2015, 12:01
At the risk of being a grammar nazi, please remember that we are talking about Venomous snakes, not Poisonous snakes...:sun

[Side note: I nearly misspelled the word grammar in the post above :eek:]
That would be a vocabulary usage issue, not a grammar issue.:)

tim.hiker
03-31-2015, 12:11
better to scared of a snake than buried in a box alive..lol Really your not near as bad as some ppl I know of ppl if they see any snake any where they get all tore up....

Freestone
04-01-2015, 05:27
Depps, congratulations on handling the snakes! That took a lot of courage.

In order to enjoy the trail more, you might consider working with a behavioral therapist who does Systematic Desensitization, the best known treatment for phobia. While it may ease your mind a bit , hearing about all the snakes you won't encounter and how to deal with the ones you may won't solve a phoebia. If you can't find the right therapist locally, I've heard there self-guided desensitization you can try too (and you apparently already jumped way ahead).

Best of luck!!!

Malto
04-01-2015, 05:49
Kudos for going so far to remove an obstacle. You are already ahead of the vast majority of people that let a barrier get in the way of a goal.

i have had several encounters with VENOMOUS :) snakes and it doesn't take many to realize they are just living their life which is eating mice and other critters and you are the last thing they want to see. But one of the scariest encounters was walking down the PCT and hearing but not seeing a rattlesnake very close to me, the sound soiled by hiking britches. As I walked around it I realized how much effort the snake put into avoiding a conflict. He clearly was not out to ambush me.

Five Tango
04-01-2015, 09:09
Just know that if you step on something that mostly feels like a garden hose full of water-you might ought to get off it as fast as you can.Don't take time to wonder what it was-you already know!I have only stepped on one and have walked around in the woods quite a bit;constantly looking though.The one I stepped on was fortunately a common harmless king snake who had decided to wrap himself around the axle of my rolling garbage can.So when I retrieved the can that morning I pulled back to turn it around,snake let go,as I moved forward-oops-what's that hose doing here?

Francis Sawyer
04-01-2015, 09:26
22 magnum birdshot . I don't advocate killing All snakes but some snakes push the issue.

Odd Man Out
04-01-2015, 12:32
At the risk of being a grammar nazi, please remember that we are talking about Venomous snakes, not Poisonous snakes...:sun

[Side note: I nearly misspelled the word grammar in the post above :eek:]

Actually, we should be talking about all sakes, not just venomous ones. As the OP pointed out, the phobia is not about being bitten, but about snakes in general. My biology lab partner in college had a severe snake phobia. On a field trip to a natural history museum, she just about died when we turned the corner and saw a dead snake in a glass case. People without the phobia tend to use rational arguments (such as all the advice above on how to respond to snakes) to treat or dismiss the fears. However this kind of advice does not get to the root of the problem. The fear is quite real, even if it isn't rational. I applaud the OP for dealing with it. Best of luck to you.

Odd Man Out
04-01-2015, 12:35
BTW, on my AT section hike last July (near Roanoke VA) I saw several black snakes (not VENOMOUS, but very large) lying right in the middle of the trail. So no, they do not always go to great lengths to avoid you.

Hangfire
04-01-2015, 13:05
BTW, on my AT section hike last July (near Roanoke VA) I saw several black snakes (not VENOMOUS, but very large) lying right in the middle of the trail. So no, they do not always go to great lengths to avoid you.

Those darn black rat snakes, cool to watch slither across the trail, look like a big rubber snake but when you least expect it... I think I was a little north of Bland VA wondering along on a nice peaceful afternoon daydreaming as I trekked along, actually I was in about three levels of day dreaming at the same time, when out of nowhere one of those things shot out in front of me and i swear I screamed like a little girl!!! Now I'm not a very squeamish person, really have no problem with snakes, but for whatever reason this one scared the piss out of me. I stopped, looked around to make sure no one was behind me and witnessed the drama that had just occurred then carried on my peaceful way laughing about it (out loud) for the better part of the day, check that better part of my thru hike!