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Posted by oldherper on May 08, 2003 at 16:18:57:
In Reply to: You are right! posted by snakeguy88 on May 07, 2003 at 21:47:53:
I have worked with, captured, studied and kept literally hundreds of Canebrakes and Copperheads as well as every other species of venomous snake found in the southeastern United States over the past 30+ years. What you are saying is true...a wild copperhead when disturbed can be very testy. But, don't think for a second that a canebrake won't bite, even unprovoked. It just depends on how he feels right then. I've seen some nasty bites from Canebrakes that had every opportunity to crawl away undisturbed, but chose to bite people instead that didn't even know the canebrake was present. (One case in Mississippi in about 1982, an elderly gentleman that was working on a fence in his yard, bitten on the hand and presented at the University Medical Center in Jackson comes to mind right away) They do NOT always issue warning before they bite or strike (from what I've seen that's about 50/50 at best) and will not always crawl away when afforded the opportunity. My point is that they are not predictable. Nor is a cottonmouth or an Eastern Diamondback or Coral Snake for that matter. If a child reaches down and attempts to pick up a canebrake that he or she finds in the back yard, there is a very good chance that child will be seriously bitten. (another case in Citronella, Alabama in about 1984 when a Down's Syndrome child 4 years old picked up a large Eastern Diamondback in her front yard and was bitten repeatedly on both arms. That one had every one scrambling with the State Troopers to relay antivenin, unfortunately unsuccessfully) The venom from a canebrake is nothing to sneeze at either. By the same token, I've seen cottonmouths in the field that made no effort to bite even when intentionally provoked until several attempts had been made to escape and there was simply no alternative. And...I've seen coral snakes that were quite snappy...completely different from the stereotypical coral snake.
The net of it all is that a canebrake is fully capable of delivering a fatal bite. A copperhead isn't. In general, the copperhead may be slightly more inclined to bite, but the canebrake's bite is much more serious. A copperhead bite is not a pleasant experience by any stretch, but has a very low probability of being life threatening. A canebrake's bite can result in death, amputations and permanent disfigurement.
It's just not something that you can generalize when there may be a safety issue at hand. I would suggest following the first bit of advice and remove the attraction, especially if there are children, dogs, etc. in the picture. The chance of someone actually being bitten isn't that great but why take a chance?
:Lately most of the copperheads I have found tended to act more like their more stereotypically ferocious cousins, the cottonmouths. I have found some EXTREMELY jumpy individuals that took little or no provocation to initiate the strikes. And they are dirt common...Always gotta watch your feet when herping in our part of Texas lol. Andy