Appalachian Trail Histories


Snakes on the Trail

After a long day of hiking up and down hills following trails through the woods, things can tend to get a little monotonous. When this happens, you become less aware of your surroundings and pay less attention to detail. This is very dangerous because right at your feet could be Agkistrodon Contortrix, more commonly known as the copperhead snake. Trust me, a wonderful day hike can turn into a terrible hospital trip if you’re not careful. Just one bite gives a feeling of intense pain, throbbing muscles, swelling of the skin, and severe nausea. If bitten on the extremities, this leaves an opportunity for damage to muscle or bone tissue due to lack of muscle mass to spread out the venom. If bitten one should seek medical attention immediately.

Many of the stories hikers tell when they encountered this snake on the trail is that they serve no real threat. As long as they gave the snake distance and didn’t mess with it they walked away fine. The records of people being bit by a copperhead on the Appalachian trail is nearly unheard of.  Many claims in fact are of hikers that thought they were bit.  Although there are accounts of people being bit, one Alex Reiger age 20 back in 2009 was bitten by a copperhead. Story was he was near Spring mountain shelter searching for firewood. Unfortunately, what he thought was just a stick came with an unwelcome package of a copperhead snake. Alex was fortunate enough to be rescued in time and survived the snake bite. This account was one of the rarer stories, because many of the other bites happened due to agitation of the snake. What better way to agitate a snake than to step right on top of it, every year hundreds of hikers become derelict in their step and accidentally step on a snake. In other cases, it’s usually the hikers fault for being bitten.  Forums discussing these accounts are flooded with these stories, many of which include videos of foolish hikers taking walking sticks and playing with the snake. Currently the only thing the Appalachian Trail Conservancy does to prevent these snake bites is warn hikers and ask them to remain aware of their surroundings and be careful in areas that are heavily populated with these snakes.