Snake Venom and Bites

Throughout the world, it is estimated there are a minimum of 1 to 2 million annual snakebite incidents (this number includes bites by non-venomous species). Of that number, roughly 50,000 to 100,000 bites result in fatalities worldwide. The country with the largest number of annual snakebite deaths is the tiny island nation of Sri Lanka.

In the United States there are approximately 5,000 - 7,000 venomous snakebites every year.  However, generally only 10 - 15 are fatal. In Australia, the country with the highest percentage of deadly snakes, just 3 to 4 people are killed by venomous snakes yearly.

What to do if bitten:

Remain calm - death from most snake bites is not instantaneous.
IMMEDIATELY GO TO THE HOSPITAL! At the hospital, they will administer antivenom, if needed. Antivenom is the only effective treatment available for treating snakebites in the U.S.
Avoid anything that thins your blood or accelerates your heart rate: alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin, etc.

What NOT to do if bitten:

Do not attempt the following, they can cause harm and waste your valuable time getting snake bite treatment from a qualified medical professional.

Use a tourniquet. A tourniquet is extremely painful and will cut blood flow to the wounded limb. This may cause the limb to die and require amputation.
Cut X’s over the fang marks and suck out the venom. Snake venom spreads quickly and efficiently through the lymphatic system. It is almost impossible to cut deep enough, quickly enough, or to suck hard enough to pull an adequate amount of venom out to make a difference.
Apply ice to slow the spread of venom.
“Electrocute” the bitten area to neutralize the venom.

These are all instances of improper snake bite treatment, will cause severe pain, permanent tissue damage, and possible amputation.

Visit our Sky Dome and head on up to the mezzanine level, where you’ll see some of the most venomous snakes on Earth.  Want to learn more about these fascinating creatures?  Be sure to catch one of our Snake Shows where you and your family have an opportunity have an up-close-and-personal experience with Reptile Gardens' snake ambassadors.


Variable Snake Bite Factors

There are innumerable combinations of variables that affect the outcome of a snake envenomation. The size, age, and health of both the snake and the person bitten are important factors. The body temperature, even mood, of a particular snake in addition to the toxicity and quantity of venom delivered by that snake can all make a very big difference in the outcome of the bite.

Snakes have complete control over how much venom they inject anytime they bite. So one could get a “dry” bite, with no venom in it whatsoever.  Consequently, a particularly annoyed snake might inject its maximum amount.  Interestingly, studies have also shown that the toxicity of the venom in a particular snake can vary a small amount from season to season and even day to day.

The location of the bite is another consideration, along with route of injection, and even sensitivity and/or allergies of the person bitten. Add in the potential for a severe infection, and it is safe to say there are many variables that will affect the outcome of a snake bite.

Some snakes affect the nervous system with a neurotoxic venom; others have an effect on the tissue and blood with a hemotoxic venom. But, there are actually more than these two well-known types of toxins, as well as countless combinations of them. Examples are: myotoxins, cardiotoxins, haemotoxins, and neurotoxins. No snake possesses just one type because each snake tends to have a different combination of toxins. It is this variable combination that makes reactions to bites from different species so unique.

Snake Venom

There are many misconceptions about what snake venom actually is. Snake venom is merely modified saliva, or a combination of many different proteins and enzymes.

The old way of categorizing venom indicated that some snakes have a neurotoxic venom (affecting the nervous system) and others have a haemotoxic venom (affecting tissue and blood). There are actually far more than two types of toxins, and countless combinations of these - myotoxins, cardiotoxins, haemotoxins, and neurotoxins, to name just a few.

No snake venom contains just one type of toxin – most snakes have a combination of toxins, and it's this variable combination that makes reactions to snake bites so different from species to species.

What is, and what do we mean by snake venom toxicity?  Toxicity is traditionally determined by how much venom it takes to kill a test animal. It is tested via the "Lethal Dose for 50%” (LD50) method - how much venom it takes to kill 50% of the test animals (usually mice).

When discussing the LD50, we must also consider the route of injection:


Under the skin. These bites are the most applicable to actual snakebites.


Into the muscle. Very large specimens of Gaboon Vipers, Puff Adders, Rhino Vipers, Rattlesnakes, Bushmasters, and South American Lanceheads (also called Fer-de-lances) are about the only snakes capable of delivering this type of bite.


In a vein. These bites are extremely rare and very, very unfortunate, as many of those are rapidly fatal.


Directly into the body cavity. These bites are even rarer for humans.

The dangerous effect of snake venom on humans is well known, but there are also many medicinal uses of snake venom, this specialized saliva has been used in medical situations across the globe:

Excessive bleeding

A blood-clotting protein in Taipan venom has been found to stop excessive bleeding during surgery or after major trauma.


Components of Malayan Pit Viper venom has shown potential for breaking blood clots and treating stroke victims.

Neurological diseases

Enzymes from cobra venom may be instrumental to finding cures for Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Cancer (various types)

An enzyme derived from copperhead venom could be used for treatment for breast cancer.


Yes, some are even used in a commercial wrinkle cream!


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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch Funtier Town

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing, go on a 3D safari, or test your aim at the shooting gallery! Our very own old west ghost town has numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

At the end of every snake show, you will get the opportunity to pet a python and chat with our knowledgeable show presenters. Don't forget your camera!