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The good news is that most snake bites will not result in the victim's early demise.  That's because most snakes in North America are not venomous.  But even if the snake's bite is not poisonous, infection can result from the puncture wounds, and in some cases, the victim may experience an allergic reaction, which in rare cases may be fatal

So what breeds of snakes are venomous in North America?  Fortunately not too many (the most venomous of the venomous class are native to other parts of the world).  And where are they located?  Rattlesnakes are large venomous snakes that inhabit various parts of North America and are given many different names (eastern, western, diamondback).  Copperheads, too, are found in different regions.  Their water-bound cousins, cottonmouths or water moccasins, are largely restricted to southeastern waters.  The eastern coral snake is found along the Gulf Coast.  Some claim that venomous snakes have flat heart or arrowhead shaped heads and diamond-shaped pupils (if the pupils fill the whole eye opening, the snake is not venomous) as well as a depression between eye and nostril called a pit (used to sense heat in prey), but you don't want to spend too much time analyzing your snake for these features. 

Remember that most snakes will not attack humans unless they feel cornered or threatened.  They generally prey on mice and small rodents.  They have special glands and teeth to inject venom directly into the blood stream of their victims in order to stun and immobilize them.  They may also use their venomous bite as a way to defend themselves (this is where humans come in).

How do you respond to a snake bite, especially if you have a reaction, such as swelling? Hopefully you are not alone.  If you are, call 911 as soon as possible.  Remove or cut any tight clothing around the bite site in the event of swelling.  Lie still and stay calm but don't elevate (keep the venom below the heart).  Stress causing the heart to beat faster can actually circulate the venom and exacerbate its effects.  When they arrive, medical personnel will administer anti-venom if they feel it is warranted. 

If you are absolutely sure the snake was not venomous, you can treat the wound as you would a puncture wound to ward off infection - wash with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, cover with a clean sterile gauze.  If you have swelling, it may be an allergic reaction to the bite.  Severe allergic reactions can be more dangerous than venom and may need to be combated with an injection of epinephrine.

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