- Webster County Health Unit

Summer is almost upon us, and that means that we're going to start seeing more snakes, spiders, and stinging insects making their way into our lives. Our friends at the Missouri Poison Center offer this information to help you stay safe this summer.

Most of the snakes found in Missouri are harmless, and actually very good for the environment (they keep the rodent population down), but there are five species which are poisonous. The copperhead is the most common poisonous snake followed by the cottonmouth, and three different rattlesnakes.

These poisonous snakes are pit vipers, which means they have an opening on each side of the head called a sensory pit.

Poisonous snakes have fangs, harmless snakes have small rows of teeth.

Poisonous snakes have eyes with vertical pupils – like a cat – while all harmless snakes have round pupils.

Poisonous snakes have a single row of scales on the underside of the tail; harmless snakes have two rows of scales.


Be aware in areas where snakes likely live: woodpiles, tall grassy areas, bluffs and rock ledges.

Be cautious while hiking, especially around large rocks or logs. Wear protective shoes or boots. Consider using a walking stick when hiking.

Do not place your hands under rocks or logs; tap the top of the logs before stepping over them.

Wear rubber boots when fishing in streams that may harbor the venomous cottonmouth.

Do not catch or pick up poisonous snakes.

Contact the Missouri Department of Conservation for more information and facts about Missouri snakes.


Remain calm.

Do not try to catch or kill the snake. Leave it alone. Consider using a walking stick when hiking

Note time of the bite and remove all tight clothing or jewelry which may delay or hide swelling

Call the poison center immediately at 1-800-222-1222 for instructions on all snake bites.

Hold the limb or body part in a position slightly below or level with the heart.

Wash the bite area with soap and water.

DO NOT use ice.

DO NOT apply a tourniquet.

DO NOT cut over the fang marks and try to suck out the venom.

Transport the person to the closest hospital.

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