Ask Levi: Should I worry about poisonous snakes on the trail?

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Ask Levi: Should I worry about poisonous snakes on the trail?
Encounters with the few venomous snakes that live in West Virginia need not worry hikers.

The other day a reader write that a rattlesnake had been spotted on one of her favorite hiking trails. Should she really be worried, she asked, about poisonous snakes on the trail?

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I think "worry" might be too strong a word to use. I might suggest that we be mindful of the environment instead. West Virginia has about 22 different species of snakes, but only two are venomous. So the odds of not seeing a venomous snake are pretty good.

I've been out on the trails numerous times and never saw a snake. I've also walked a mile-and-a-half before and come across two copperheads in that short distance, but that occasion was a one-off.

By keeping our eyes open and being mindful of where we're walking, sitting, or putting our hands, we can expect a likelihood of no snake issues.

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Read also: Young wild animals in spring are best left alone; Graveyard of the Ohio now a favorite tourist destination

If you do happen to see a snake on the trail, keep your distance, and don't do anything to aggravate or agitate it. It wants to be left alone as much as you do. If it doesn't move on its own, it's a good policy just to turn back the way you came and maybe try another trail.

As an aside, I like to point out that snakes aren't poisonous: they're venomous. Certain snakes have venom and can envenomate, not poison, you. A poisonous animal has to be eaten to affect you with its toxin. A venomous animal would need to bite or sting you and inject the toxin into you.

So a poison dart frog is considered a poisonous animal because it would have to be eaten to harm or kill you. A timber rattlesnake is venomous because it injects you through a bite.

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