A pretty large copperhead pit viper was sighted on the Washington and Old Dominion trail in Reston, Virginia.
Snake season in Virginia is just about coming to a close. Venomous snakes are most dangerous during their mating seasons, which typically run from spring to fall. Unfortunately, this is also the time when most Virginia residents are spending time out and about in nature.
But as many experts warned, the peak season for snake encounters and bites in Virginia will extend well into the fall this year.
This photograph was captured on the Washington and Old Dominion trail in Reston, Virginia, and posted onto Facebook. While copperheads are native to practically all of Virginia, the sighting this late in the year so far north has many people startled.
The northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
gets its name from the distinct copper-colored head and body. Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries warns that copperheads are the only species of venomous snakes that can be found in every single county in Virginia. Because they can be found across the state, and even into parts of Maryland, copperhead bites make up the majority of 75-yearly snake bites that typically occur in Virginia. While they are venomous, they are also incredibly timid and will typically only bite if they are stepped on or seriously threatened. These pit vipers do not prey on humans, and almost all copperhead bites are either defensive or the result of a mistaken identity. Still, a defensive copperhead bite isn't any less dangerous ...
"You don't see many of these on the trail, but this copperhead was spotted near the Luck Stone quarry overlook," the social media posting of the photograph reads. "Beautiful, but venomous, so beset to admire them from a distance."
Believe it or not, not all copperhead bites end up being venomous. Sometimes, a snake can perform what is called a "dry bite," meaning that no venom ends up being injected into the victim. If a bite is venomous, you'll know it pretty quickly. Copperhead bites don't tend to be deadly, but that is because victims usually reach a hospital relatively quickly (compared to other snake bites in remote areas of the country).
If you or someone you are with does get bitten by a venomous snake, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate the venom's damage. First and foremost, get the bite victim to medical attention as soon as possible. While treating or transporting the victim, take extra care to make sure he or she stays as calm as possible. The faster the bite victim's heart rate, the quicker the venom will spread through his or her blood stream. If the bite occurred on an extremity, keep the extremity at or slightly above the victim's heart to reduce the flow of blood to and from the bite. Whatever you do, do NOT apply ice, lance the wound, urinate on the bite (you'd be surprised what people try), or try to suck the poison out.
With summer over and the temperatures dropping, the odds of running into one of these snakes is going to decrease as we get into fall. But as we've seen from this social media post, the snakes are still out and about. So, if you're going to walk, run, or bike on Virginia trails, keep an eye out for these snakes. If you give them their space, they'll leave you alone.