Are Snakes Becoming More Poisonous?


| LAST UPDATE 07/19/2023

By Stanley Wickens
snake poisonous warm climate
Pixabay via Pexels

Climate change is a hot topic these days, with its far-reaching effects on our environment and daily lives. But did you know that it could also increase your chances of encountering venomous snakes? Yes, you read that right! A recent study suggests that warmer weather, a by-product of climate change, escalates the likelihood of snake bites.

Nestled in the US state of Georgia, home to 17 varieties of venomous snakes, researchers embarked on this fascinating study. The findings were startling. For every degree Celsius rise in temperature, there's an average 6% surge in snake bites. It's a fact that snakes are highly sensitive to seasonal weather changes, going into a hibernation-like state known as brumation during winter. Hence, it's not surprising that warmer weather brings them out in full force. "We don't fully understand how weather fluctuations drive human-snake interactions," says Noah Scovronick, a health and environmental scientist at Emory University in Georgia. He adds that understanding snake bite patterns can be challenging, especially in regions where data on causes of morbidity and mortality is scarce. But even with limited data, using established epidemiological methods, they were able to learn a lot about the patterns.

snake venom climate change
Pixabay via Pexels
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The team analyzed 3,908 hospital visits due to venomous snake bites from 2014 to 2020. They compared these incidents with daily weather patterns, including temperature and precipitation. The results showed that while summers had the highest number of snake bites overall, springs had the strongest correlation between temperature and snake bites. The researchers hypothesize that higher summer temperatures might make snakes more sluggish, reducing their activity levels. The study didn't venture into forecasting how future temperature rises might affect snake bite risk. However, it did highlight that urban expansion is already increasing human-snake encounters. Snake bites are not to be taken lightly. According to the World Health Organization, they tally to over 5 million annually, causing up to 138,000 deaths and numerous health complications, including amputations and permanent disabilities.

So, what's the key to reducing these scary encounters? "Education," emphasizes Lawrence Wilson, a herpetologist at Emory University. He encourages spreading awareness about snake habitats, such as dense ground cover areas, to help people avoid such zones. "Snakes and people can coexist peacefully, even venomous ones, provided we respect and understand their habitats and needs." So climate change isn't just melting ice caps and causing extreme weather conditions; it's also making our encounters with venomous snakes more likely. So, stay educated, stay safe. This intriguing research has been published in GeoHealth.

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