There Are No Poisonous Snakes in New Jersey
I know what you're thinking right now, you only clicked on this article to see just how wrong it was. Maybe you thought that, yes, there are poisonous snakes. Perhaps you thought that "wow this person is an idiot." Maybe there are some of you that didn't click on the article at all and just b-lined it to the comments section and are currently writing a nasty comment about how dumb I am. Which in that case, that last sentence is useless because you won't read it anyway. Well, my friends, I will have the last laugh here. Why, you ask? Well, because I am in the right.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am right. Before you get all up in arms yelling at me and quoting incorrect articles that have told you all about the two "poisonous" snakes we have in New Jersey, let me tell you that those articles are dead wrong. New Jersey does not have any poisonous snakes. In fact, there is not a single poisonous snake in the world. If you type in the words "poisonous snakes" into Google news a plethora of articles will pop up, which of course proves me wrong, right? Wrong. Just because it is on the internet does not mean it's true. Well, except for this article. This article is true.
How do I get off saying that you are massively misinformed? Well, the word poisonous does not apply to snakes. It's science. The correct word when talking about snakes that secrete venom through their fangs is venomous. According to Google dictionary and myself, venomous is "...secreting venom; capable of injecting venom by means of a bite or sting."
When speaking about snakes you will never hear a biologist or anyone who actually knows what they are talking about, use the word poisonous when referring to snakes. They will only use the word venomous. Poisonous is in reference to a toxin that is either ingested or transferred by contact. Venom, on the other hand, has to be injected.
Why do I care so much about this? Well, growing up I grew to have an affinity for snakes. They are my second favorite animal. I used to volunteer with the friendly slithering reptiles at a local nature center and I watched a ton of Crocodile Hunter.
Yes, we do have two VENOMOUS snakes in New Jersey. We have the northern copperhead and the eastern timber rattlesnake. Chances are you won't find a northern copperhead here in South Jersey, they prefer to stay up in North Jersey. However, you may have a run-in with an eastern timber rattlesnake. No, we do not have water moccasins in New Jersey. However, we have plenty of species that you may find swimming in the local lake.
The eastern timber rattlesnake is an endangered species here in New Jersey and the northern copperhead has been listed under special concern. If you do spot one of these two venomous snakes it's best to keep your distance and call the NJDEP Endangered and Nongame Species at (609) 628-2103 or after office hours/weekends at (877) WARN-DEP. Please don't kill these creatures, they are an important part of the ecosystem.
If you do get too close to either one of the venomous snakes and get bit don't do this:
- DON'T try to extract the venom. I've seen plastic syringes that are marketed to extract the venom. Spoiler alert: that doesn't work. Don't try to suck the venom out either...
- DON'T put on a tight bandage. If it will take longer than 30 minutes for you to receive medical attention, wrap a bandage about 2-4 inches above the bite. Do not wrap it too tight to restrict blood flow.
- DON'T apply a cold compress.
- DON'T cut the wound open. I can't think of why this would be thought to be a good idea...
Oddly enough, just because you were bitten does not mean you have had venom injected into your body. Sometimes snakes bite without injecting any venom. However, if you are bit by a venomous snake call 9-1-1 immediately and do these things:
- STAY CALM. Think of it this way. If the snake did inject venom into your bloodstream, panicking will only make it spread through your body quicker with your accelerated heart rate.
- CLEAN THE BITE. Wash the area with soap and water.
- KEEP THE BITE AREA LOW. Keep the wound below your heart.
- WAIT FOR HELP TO ARRIVE. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Either have someone take you or wait for an ambulance to arrive.
All of this can be avoided by just respecting the snakes and keeping your distance. However, accidents do happen so keep those tips in mind.
Sources: ConserveWildlifeNJ.org, NJ.gov, State.NJ.us