Snakes have adapted to a wide range of habitats and prey species. All snakes are predatory carnivores; none are vegetarians although some eat eggs. Since snakes are preyed upon by other animals, they tend to be secretive and have evolved many survival strategies. By understanding something about snakes’ habits, simple precautions can be adopted to reduce the chance of encounters, and consequently bites. Some truth apply to all snakes – they prefer not to confront large animals (such as humans) to give them the chance to slither away.
Many snakes are non venomous, while others are only mildly venomous, and not particularly dangerous to humans. However, only a few are highly venomous and their bites potentially lethal.
|Venom milking from a snake with reared fangs.|
The primary function of snake venoms is to help the snake immobilize and eventually digest its prey. Snake venoms are complex compounds containing numerous components, mainly proteins. The most important venom components that lead to significant clinical effects after a bite are enzymes and polypeptides toxins.
The amount of venom injected during a bite depends on various factors: species and size of the snakes, mechanical efficiency of the bites, whether one or two fangs penetrated the skin, and whether there were repeated bites. For some reason, not all bites by venomous snakes lead to venom injection (dry bites). Even after several bites or after eating their prey, snakes do not exhaust their venom, and they remain just as venomous.
It is very important to realize that even in the case of dry bites or when people suspect or simply imagine that they have been bitten by a snake, they can develop some signs due to extreme anxiety: over breathing, stiffness or dizziness, agitation, or shock with profound slowing of the heart.
Within the same species, large snakes will also tend to inject more venom than smaller ones, but the venom of the latter may be richer in some very dangerous components. Bites by small snakes should therefore not be neglected but should receive the same attention as those by larger snakes.