Northern New England is home to several species of snake, but not many poisonous ones. Small populations of timber rattlesnakes live in parts of New Hampshire and Vermont. They tend to live near rock slides, ledges and woodlands. Vermont has two dens of timber rattlesnakes near West Haven, Vermont and New Hampshire has a den located near Manchester, NH. They were designated endangered in 1987. Their triangular-shaped head is where the venom glands are located.
It is possible, but very unlikely, that you would find a copperhead in New Hampshire or Vermont. Maine does not have any poisonous snakes.
Some people own exotic poisonous snakes from other parts of the world as pets. Poisonous snakes also sometimes come in from other parts of the country in vehicles or shipping containers.
Snake bites are very uncommon in New England. They tend to bite only if upset or scared.
If you are traveling in areas where snakes might live, be smart and follow these prevention tips.
- Avoid places where snakes may live such as rocky areas, fallen logs, deep holes and tall grassy areas.
- Wear long pants and closed- toe shoes.
- At night, walk with a flashlight to scare off any snakes around you.
- Avoid surprise encounters. Watch where you step.
- Never touch or handle a snake. Even if recently killed, they can still bite by reflex.
- Have the poison center phone number programmed into your cell phone.
- If traveling in a snake prone area, take a partner if possible.
Not every snake bite causes a poisoning, but if you are bitten by a timber rattlesnake or other potentially poisonous snake, get medical help right away.
If bitten, call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222, text POISON to 85511 or visit www.nnepc.org for a live chat with the experts. If the snake was poisonous and you need treatment, the poison center can find the right antivenin.
- Stay calm and still.
- Call 9-1-1 if victim is having trouble breathing or is unconscious.
- Remember the time the bite happened.
- Remove all jewelry and tight clothing.
- Wash area of bite with soap and water, if possible and apply a clean, dry dressing.
- Keep part of body that was bitten straight and at heart level, unless told otherwise by a health care provider or a poison specialist.
- Do not suck out venom.
- Do not apply cold or heat.
Gayle Finkelstein is Vermont Poison Prevention Educator with the Northern New England Poison Center in Community Health Improvement at the University of Vermont Medical Center.