Nobody can point fingers at you and laugh if you fear rattlesnakes. These are quite vicious predators that can deliver a deadly bite.
Even though a rattlesnake bite isn’t necessarily deadly, you still don’t want to play with your chances. But today, we aren’t discussing rattlesnakes, but rather a copycat that goes by the name of a bull snake.
This species is related to the gopher snake, and the reason why it’s so popular has to do with its appearance. But let’s discuss it in more detail.
What is a Bull Snake?
The bull snake is a species of non-venomous snake from North America that are more widespread in arid regions with little available vegetation.
They can grow up to 5 feet at most and come with a thick and powerful body. The amazing thing about bull snakes is that they have evolved to mimic the appearance of rattlesnakes.
They possess a similar coloring and body pattern and even use some of the rattlesnake’s defensive behavior.
Expect the bull snake to inflate its body, posture up, and hiss loudly when threatened. As we will discuss shortly, this isn’t just for show.
Are Bull Snake Bites Dangerous?
Typically, no, but it depends on how you define “dangerous”. A bull snake’s bite won’t kill you because the snake doesn’t have any venom. But bull snakes are strong, and they have very small teeth that they use to immobilize their prey.
So, a bull snake’s bite will definitely not feel well, especially if the snake is particularly aggressive and uses its full force to bite.
Bull snakes are also known to bite multiple times when cornered or scared. This can lead to a painful bite that can even get infected if left untreated.
Remember, an adult bull snake has no problems piercing the skin and inflicting visible wounds, albeit not extreme. These require cleaning and treating because the bull snake’s mouth isn’t the cleanest place in the world.
As an analogy, alligators aren’t venomous, either. But their bites can quickly become infected due to the multiple colonies of bacteria thriving and having sex in the reptile’s mouth.
And such an infection can definitely kill, which makes bull snakes particularly dangerous to children, old people, and individuals with compromised immune systems.
Symptoms and Marks of a Bull Snake Bite
If you’ve just been bitten, but haven’t had the time to identify the snake that did it, look for the following symptoms: local pain, redness, bruising, and mild bleeding, usually in the form of small puncture wounds.
If the marks left by the bite are multiple and not just 2, the snake that bit you is, almost certainly, not venomous.
However, if you experience symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, uncontrollable shaking or muscle twitching, partial paralysis, etc., you need immediate medical assistance.
The same stays true if you don’t experience these symptoms, but the bite location swells up fast and causes severe pain and bleeding. These are typical symptoms of a hemotoxic bite.
Treatment and First Aid for a Bull Snake Bite
If you’ve been bitten by a bull snake, consider the following:
- Don’t panic – Panicking has the role of…It actually has no role, it will only make matters worse. Keep your head clear and approach the situation with a controlled mindset.
- Clean the area – Since the bull snake is not venomous, your only concern should be to prevent any infection that may occur along the way. Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water to remove any bacteria present in and around the bite.
- Ask for medical help – Even if the bite itself contains no venom and you’ve cleaned it immediately, this is not a guarantee that you won’t experience any additional problems along the way. One particular risk is being sensitive to snake saliva, causing you to develop an allergic response (anaphylactic shock.) This can lead to deadly complications, and I will assume you don’t want that.
- Monitor yourself – If you’re the one who’s been bitten, monitor your symptoms closely until help arrives. This way, you can keep track of any complications that may develop along the way.
In short, bull snake bites don’t require urgent treatment, but you shouldn’t ignore them either.
Prevention of Bull Snake Bites
Naturally, you want to prevent being bitten in the first place for obvious reasons. So, how can you achieve that?
Consider the following:
- Exercise caution – This is more like common sense advice, but it needs to be said. You should always understand the snake’s behavior and exercise caution when traversing its habitat. Always check your surroundings, pay attention to any warning signs (hissing especially), and don’t stick your hand in holes, under rocks, or clumps of vegetation where you notice movement.
- Wear the right gear – Always get some snake protection equipment with you, like long anti-snake pants and solid boots. These will protect you if the previous point is skipped or fails entirely.
- Avoid confrontations – If you do encounter the snake, give it space and be on your way. You don’t want to provoke it or attempt to capture it. At least, not if you don’t like being bitten.
- Learn how to recognize the snake – If the reason you’re traversing the snake’s habitat is precisely to capture a specimen, make sure you’re aware of the snake’s physical and behavioral features. You don’t want to mistake the bull snake for a rattlesnake, which is quite likely to happen due to the physical similarities between the 2.
These strategies should keep you reasonably safe from snake bites, whether harmless or venomous.
Bull snakes are generally harmless, but that doesn’t mean that they’re friendly or that they won’t bite if provoked.
So, it’s better to just give the reptile space. Especially since you can easily mistake a rattlesnake for a bull snake, which isn’t exactly ideal.