Hansen continues decades-long snake education to public
Cherokee Nation citizen Woody Hansen handles a non-venomous bull snake and talks to the public about the differences in venomous versus non-venomous snakes and what to do when bitten on June 19 at the Delaware County Library in Jay. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Summer school students and others look at a display of snakes during a snake education presentation by Cherokee Nation Woody Hansen on June 19 at the Delaware County Library in Jay. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A western diamondback rattlesnake was one snake on display for education purposes during Woody Hansen’s snake education presentation on June 19 at the Delaware County Library. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A bull snake has round eyes and a round head to indicate that it is non-venomous. It is one of the several informational pieces one can learn at Cherokee Nation citizen Wood Hansen’s snake education presentations. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
JAY – For nearly three decades, Cherokee Nation citizen Woody Hansen has informed the public about the “striking” reptile species – snakes – so people can learn to coexist with them rather than be fearful.
In his presentations at libraries, schools and health facilities, Hansen displays venomous and non-venomous snakes that he’s acquired and tells crowds the do’s and don’ts when it comes to encountering a snake.
For example, when bitten, he said taking care of a snakebite is not like it is on TV. Whether a bite is from a venomous or non-venomous snake, it is best to go to the hospital.
“In real life, unless you’re bitten right in the neck, you may get bit in the hand or the foot, you’re going to survive,” he said.
He said because of what is shown on TV most people want to suck out the poison or create a tourniquet around the wound, but neither is encouraged.
“The reason is, is the person who got bit has venom in them. Say my friend wanted to help and start suctioning it out, she would get venom in her mouth and it would go into her system. Then you have two people that need doctoring instead of one,” Hansen said.
He added that a non-venomous snakebite could be treated with soap, water and an antiseptic because a snake’s bite is full of germs and bacteria, but a trip to the hospital is still advised.
The most common places a person will get bit are the hand, leg or foot, though a snake can bite anywhere.
In his presentations, Hansen shows venomous and non-venomous snakes such a copperhead, rattlesnake, water snake, hognose, bull snake and garter snake.
He said the most common snakes people might see in spring and summer are copperheads and rattlesnakes.
“The copperhead, especially this time of year, in the summer when it’s humid and in the evening time is when they’re most prevalent to come out and look for food. People are outside in the evening time are more apt to get bit. During the morning hours and the afternoon they’re in the shade. They’re very docile as far as just laying around. In the evening they’re out moving,” he said.
He said people might also come across pygmy rattlesnakes, especially when picking blackberries and huckleberries.
People might also come across the non-venomous hognose and be deceived that it’s venomous because the hognose can flair its head like a cobra.
“If you surprise him out in the woods, he’s going to flair up. So if you’ve ever seen a hognose, (while) walking around and you get scared and start dancing around, this hognose will flair out his head,” he said.
Hansen tells audiences some differences to look for in venomous and non-venomous snakes. He said a non-venomous snake has round eyes and a rounder head, while a venomous snake has “cat-eyes” and a triangular-shaped head. For example, he said a water snake had a triangular-shaped head, which would indicate that it is poisonous.
“Just get familiar with what’s around you. Like I tell kids, go to the library, read about them. I tell adults try to overcome your fear.”