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

Encounters with venomous snakes in West Virginia need not worry hikers.
Encounters with the few venomous snakes that live in West Virginia need not worry hikers.

Dear Levi: The other day someone said a rattlesnake had been spotted on one of my favorite hiking trails. I’ve never seen a snake anywhere near there! Should I really be worried about poisonous snakes on the trail?

I think “worry” might a bit too strong a word to use. I might suggest that we be mindful of our environment instead. West Virginia has about 22 different species of snakes, though . 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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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 to just 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 is one that has to be eaten to affect you with its toxin. A venomous animal is one that 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 considered a venomous animal because it injects you by way of a bite.

Walk far, walk free, walk often!

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