By Dave Hanks

Venom is actually saliva that contains powerful digestive enzymes. When we eat; our saliva, in addition to lubrication, starts the digestive process of starchy food before it reaches the stomach. A rattlesnake strikes a mouse and injects venom into the mouse’s blood stream. The mouse then runs away, and though it may feel like it has escaped, the digestion of its body has begun, and the mouse soon dies. The snake then takes its time to follow the scent trail to find and swallow the mouse.

Fangs are like hypodermic needles. Different snake species have a few basic differences in their fangs. Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and Cottonmouths have retractable fangs. They can hit you and inject venom so quickly that you may be unsure of the bite. Other species have solidly planted fangs. In some, like vipers, the fangs are at the rear of their mouths. Cobra and Mamba fangs are in front. When they strike the bite is more like what one would expect a bite to be like. Cobras must chew on the victim to get their fangs free. This chewing, not only frees their fangs, but injects a goodly quantity of venom into the prey. The big King Cobra will chew up and down your arm like eating a cob of corn – a gruesome thought! Cobra venom works on the nervous system first. Rattlesnake’s venom first works on the circulatory system, and viper venom on muscle. I have seen photos of viper bites on people’s legs, and most of the muscle is gone revealing bare bone.

America’s most aggressive snake is the Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin). It’s a pit viper (depression on the side of head that is heat sensitive). It is a southeastern USA snake that lives in semi-aquatic habitats. Perhaps its aggressiveness is over exaggerated, but it will stand its ground when feeling threatened, by coiling and showing its fangs. It can deliver a painful and potentially fatal bite. I am glad that there are none in Idaho!

(Agkistrodon piscivorus - piscivorus means fish eater)