Hospitals Report Increase in Snakebites

CBS reports an increase in snakebite cases in North Texas hospitals, but the phenomenon does not seem to be limited to the Lone Star State. There are also record numbers of snake bites in Kansas and California, and theories abound as to why.

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Higher temperatures caused by mild winters could play a part in more snake activity. Since snakes, like all reptiles, cannot regulate their own body temperatures, their behavior is closely related to the weather. During mild weather, they tend to expose themselves more in order to warm themselves in the sun, making them more likely to be encountered by humans.

It could also be related to lack of moisture in areas where snakebites are more common. When water sources dry up, snakes must leave their territories in search of water, sometimes into human-inhabited areas. Swimming pools, ponds, and lakes are all attractive to water-deprived reptiles.

A third theory has to do with neurotoxins in snake venom. According to USA Today, hellerase is a neurotoxin present in snake venom, which could make snakebites more severe. Snakebites can be either wet or dry, depending on whether the individual injected venom with the bite. In wet bites, serious injury is more likely to occur, especially when elevated levels of neurotoxins are present.

Snakebites are always more common when homes and businesses are built on land previously dominated by snakes. Some of the reptiles are killed by urban sprawl, while others remain - only now much closer to human beings. In new housing developments, residents often find snakes under their homes, in bathrooms, and sunning on front porches.

Of course, this year at least, changes in animal behavior are often linked to the end of the world predictions. The Revelation chapter of the Bible deals with plagues involving animals, for example, and famines are believed to cause animals to emerge from their hiding places in search of food - food that could wind up being human in nature. Then there are the reports of global warming, which is said to alter the make-up of entire ecosystems. When animals begin acting out of character, people tend to assume the worst.

Whether it's an ominous sign of the end times or merely a curious symptom of drought, increased numbers of reported snakebites should inspire caution. Although there are plenty of non-venomous snakes out there, some are difficult to tell apart from their venomous cousins.

To avoid snakebites, stay clear of tall grasses and weeds that might conceal the slithering reptiles. Do not approach snakes that you might see in or around your home; instead, call your local animal control department. If you are bitten by a snake, even if you believe it was non-venomous, get to a hospital immediately.