Here’s how to identify whether a snake in your backyard is venomous

Eastern milk snake. (WYDaily/File photo)
Eastern milk snake. (Southside Daily/File photo)

It’s that time of the year again, when snakes and bugs are beginning to come back out from winter hiding.

In Virginia, where there are some venomous species of snakes, some homeowners may have questions about which snakes they’re finding in their backyards or crawl spaces.

While asking questions on social media can be helpful, the Virginia Herpetological Society has an entire webpage dedicated to discerning which snakes are harmless and which are venomous.

The website shows photographs and gives information on each type of snake, including where they can be found.

In Virginia, there are three common types of venomous snakes: the Eastern Copperhead, Northern Cottonmouth and Timber Rattlesnake.

All of the snakes can be found in the Hampton Roads area.

The website also lists about two dozen harmless snakes, including the Northern Rough Greensnake, Brown Watersnake and Dekay’s Brownsnake.

About 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes a year in the U.S. Between five and 10 people die, the herpetological society said.

In case of a venomous bite, here are some tips from the Virginia Herpetological Society:

  • Get medical help immediately. Call 911. Keep calm.
  • Mark the place of the bite, and write the time of the bite on the person using a permanent marker.
  • Restrict movement, make a loose splint to restrict movement.
  • Keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
  • Remove rings or constricting items because the bitten area may swell.
  • Monitor the person’s vital signs — temperature, pulse, rate of breathing. Look for signs of shock like paleness, lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot and cover the person with a blanket.
  • If swelling occurs, mark the extent of the swelling with a marker, and write the time.
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood; the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it. Once a pressure bandage has been applied, it should not be removed until the patient has reached a medical professional.

When bitten by a venomous snake, do not:

  • allow the person to become overexerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.
  • apply a tourniquet.
  • apply cold compresses.
  • cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
  • try to suction the venom by mouth.
  • give the person stimulants or pain medications unless instructed to do so by a doctor.
  • give the person anything by mouth, except water
  • raise the site of the bite above the level of the person’s heart.

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John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.