North Captiva Island remains beloved as a vacation getaway island. That’s not least because it’s home to so much and such varied wildlife. On the land, in the sea, and certainly in the air, it’s a wildlife scene that’s literally teaming with birds, fish and marine mammals and terrestrial creatures.
While nearly all wildlife can present an attractive spectacle, all wildlife is also best left alone. Among those in this latter category, the venomous snakes are among the most dangerous – and the most interesting.
Though you’re chances of seeing even one venomous snake are very slim, it’s best to familiarize yourself with them, and what you should do in the event that you do run across one.
Snake bite victims need to be treated, as soon as possible, by emergency personnel at a hospital. According to WebMD, you should carefully note the snake's appearance, so that the type of venom (and thus anti-venom) can be determined.
Be sure the victim is a safe distance from the snake, but keep the victim still while you wait for medical personnel. They should be positioned with the wound below the heart to slow the movement of the venom. Never cut a bite wound and don’t attempt to suck the venom out or apply a tourniquet. No ice, no water. Just cover with a light bandage and get to medical help or wait for an ambulance.
Venomous Snakes in Florida
In all of Southwest Florida, there are only four venomous snakes:
- the eastern diamondback rattlesnake,
- the dusky pygmy rattlesnake,
- the Florida cottonmouth
- and the eastern coral snake
While not exceptionally rare on mainland Florida, they are less common on the islands, though not unheard of. Only the eastern diamondback rattlesnake and eastern coral snake have been documented on the islands, but undocumented sightings of all four have been noted.
In any event, stay away from all of the above, if you are lucky enough to spot one. Spotting one, hopefully photographing one, is all you should hope for. Don’t get any closer.
Confirmed Venomous Island Snakes
Eastern Coral Snake – With black, red and yellow stripes running around its body, the eastern coral snake is easily one of the most attractive snakes. Don’t go picking one up. Full-grown coral snakes are seldom more than about three feet long. Though cold comfort, coral snakes only inject venom about 40% of the time that they bite so there is a chance of getting bitten and merely needing a tetanus shot rather than the anti-venom. One of presumed reasons the coral snake has taken to the islands is that they survive chiefly on a diet of frogs and lizards of which both Sanibel and Captiva Islands can boast prolific numbers. Even if you have spotted only the mimicking snakes, snakes that appear like the eastern coral snake, just steer clear of them, and spare yourself the trouble.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes – Folks tend to need a lot less warning when it comes to rattlesnakes. They simply have a reputation preceding them, so they’re not likely to be mistaken for something pretty, (like the eastern coral snake above). On the other hand, they do tend to put themselves in places where they can surprise small animals and bigger folks end up surprising the snakes. And that’s the problem. Full grown at up to about five feet in length, they’re big enough to put even daredevil types on their guard, but rattlesnakes will still end up wandering into places where we just don’t expect them to be. Surviving mostly on small mammals like mice and shrews, rattlesnakes generally want to be left alone, and they are best that way. There’s enough other wildlife around to keep island visitors occupied.
Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnakes – Much smaller than their diamondback cousins, pygmy rattlers grow to just about two feet in length and they’ve been documented on North Captiva. Sanibel island has reported sightings, but none of these have been confirmed. Similar to the diamondback, their venom can be deadly but it tends to come in smaller doses. Also like the diamondback, the pygmy rattler, lives mostly off of rodents and similar small game.
Florida Cottonmouth – Similar to the pygmy rattler, the water mocassin has never been confirmed on any of the Fort Lee County islands. Still, it’s a relatively aggressive snake and it thrives in other semi-aquatic environments all over south Florida. They certainly could show up, and though uninvited, they do perform a role wherever they’re found keeping mice and other small rodents, frogs and bird populations under control. Like most venomous snakes, the cottonmouth will defend itself if it feel encroached upon, and the venom it can deliver is not to be underestimated.
Most snake bites in the last half century have resulted from people trying to catch, isolate or handle venomous snakes. North Captiva Island has a wealth of other wildlife that can be justly and thoroughly enjoyed. Some creatures can even be appreciated from very near at hand. Other than in a dolphin petting zoo, you shouldn’t try to touch (much less handle or catch) any of the animals. And if you’re fortunate enough to witness one of the venomous snakes mentioned above – on North Captiva – or anywhere in South Florida, do yourself a favor, and keep your distance.
This article was written by james t. James is a New Jersey native but currently lives in Mexico City because it’s a tad bit cold in New Jersey at the moment. Still, he is looking forward to the 2014 Super Bowl being held in his freezing home state.