Like most predators, snakes aren't interested in confronting humans unless they absolutely have to. They're just trying to hunt and survive, much like we may be when we encounter them. However, snakes are also masters of disguise, so hikers and campers often inadvertently surprise these animals. The resulting snakebite can result in serious injury or death.
It's generally wise to avoid snakes altogether in the backcountry, but there are circumstances when that might not be possible. You may come across one in your campsite, or you may be desperate for food — if you're able to safely kill and cook a snake, it can provide much-needed protein and energy during a survival situation. No matter the circumstance, it's helpful to know what sort of snake you're dealing with.
Several venomous snake species have non-venomous lookalikes, and being able to discern the difference can help you know how to approach the encounter. The following infographic from the Roger Williams Park Zoo shows three venomous snakes and their non-venomous counterparts. This info is most relevant to the northeast United States, but covers three of the most dangerous snakes in the country: the Timber Rattlesnake, Copperhead, and Cottonmouth. Click here to download a full-size version of this graphic.
For more on how to handle a snakebite from a venomous snake, check out out the “Snake Bite First Aid” infographic we previously featured.
Thanks to contributor Tim MacWelch for letting us know about this graphic.