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Wise or Wuss?
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Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 07:33:53 MDT Print View

Last weekend I was hiking a section of the Mid State Trail through Pennsylvania. We reached our campsite the first night and I put up my hammock. Shortly after that I grabbed my toilet kit and was heading into the woods for a "bio break" and hadn't gone ten feet from my hammock before I came upon a copperhead curled up in a small clearing.

I backed up, took my hammock down, and relocated it to the opposite side of the camp - about 50 feet away.

My hiking buddies agreed that I did the right thing, but there were certainly no guarantees that there wasn't another snake near my new location that I simply didn't see. It was going to be a cool night (down into the 40's) so I'm pretty sure the copperhead slithered down into his den and was going to stay there until it warmed up the next morning, but I didn't want to take a chance.

What's the verdict? Wise move or was I simply being a wuss?

Thanks for your thoughts and experiences,

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 07:56:20 MDT Print View

Ten feet?

Wuss!!!! And I would have beaten you to the next spot!

Seriously, I know how prolific those little buggers can be, but I would have moved too. The thought of stepping on him during a 4am pee would've kept me up.

Wise move.

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 07:57:00 MDT Print View

I think you were wise. Had it been some non-venomous serpent, then I think we'd have to call you Wuss.

The snake could have easily been content hanging out by your hammock for the duration of the day, leaving you to tiptoe around your hammock in the meantime...and perhaps leave you wondering about it while you were hanging there that night.

Even if you did see a den/whole in the ground near the snake, it may not have necessarily been that snakes den - its den may have been even closer to your hammock.

By moving your hang you made yourself more comfortable, and thus, your time more enjoyable; it was certainly better, for both of you, than being cocky and trying to relocate the snake.

Win-Win, Kevin. You made a good choice.


Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Wise or Wuss on 06/13/2011 08:04:15 MDT Print View

I think we'd have all moved but still called you a wuss. Would you really expect anyone to cut you any slack!?

Are copperheads territorial? I've got a buddy who swears rattlesnakes are. I'd probably believe him, but then I couldn't call him a wuss.

Chas Ho
(i_charles) - F
Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 08:56:03 MDT Print View

I would have embellished the story a bit.
Each time I told the story the snake would have gotten larger and more feirce until the northern copperhead was the size of Godzilla!
I would have left out the part about moving camp.:)
Maybe you could have killed one with your bare hands and used the skin as a guy line and the meat as a evening snack?

Edited to add: I almost stepped on a coiled rattler once and it started rattling..I did a kind of mid stride pivot and moved away really that happened..seriously.:)

Edited by i_charles on 06/13/2011 08:58:57 MDT.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 10:42:47 MDT Print View


Three days later we were hiking up a large pile of rocks (I was in the lead) and about six feet from the top I heard the "buzz" of a rattler letting me know he was there. He slid under a rock but kept rattling as the last of our group passed him a good eight feet away.

I hate to be surprised by snakes - if I know they're there and I can avoid them I don't freak out. A rattlesnake who telegraphs his presence is very much appreciated. A small black snake zipping across the trail in front of me usually generates some kind of outburst. Maybe I am a wuss...

One of the things I realized this trip is just how much the ticking of trekking poles on rock must do to let critters know that we're coming. The Mid State Trail can be exceptionally rocky (even for PA) and I was able to keep track of the guy behind me by the click of his poles on the rocks. I'm sure that rattler heard my poles coming long before he saw me.

Chas Ho
(i_charles) - F
"Wise or Wuss?" on 06/13/2011 10:53:27 MDT Print View

I don't know you but you may be confusing being a wuss with just be cautious..out in the woods its good to err on the side of caution.
It would be a lot more embarassing to be bit by a snake than just avoiding it.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 11:12:32 MDT Print View


Bear Grylls would've eaten the snake for dinner, jumped off a 50 ft cliff into the nearest river, and then whitewater-rafted "bareback" down into the nearest town with a motel.


(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "Wise or Wuss?" on 06/13/2011 11:13:09 MDT Print View

I guess "Wise" - it is a rattler dude. The will sleep under leaves also. Trust me! I almost learned the hardway was a kid in CT and then again in Georgia when I was in the army. Stay clear and you will be very happy.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 11:17:18 MDT Print View

You were wise to move your hammock.

You were a wuss to ask us if it was okay......


Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 06/13/2011 11:49:11 MDT Print View

>"One of the things I realized this trip is just how much the ticking of trekking poles on rock must do to let critters know that we're coming. The Mid State Trail can be exceptionally rocky (even for PA) and I was able to keep track of the guy behind me by the click of his poles on the rocks. I'm sure that rattler heard my poles coming long before he saw me.<"

I'm with you on this thought, Kevin. I use poles, and when I come across areas on the trail that seem prime conditions for snake sunning, I'll tap the ground (rocks) with a little extra force to get those vibrations out there for the snakes and let them know I'm coming. I'd like to think this doubles to help let the bears somewhere up ahead know, too.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Snake Psychology on 06/28/2011 16:42:31 MDT Print View

I have had my share of pet snakes and have stumbled on many poisonous ones.
I have also read a bit about them and have come to the conclusion that they are far less dangerous than people perceive.

1) Poisonous snakes do not chase people. They may slither towards you, but if they do, they do not intend to strike. It is very hard for them to bite if they are on their bellies.

2) They are not territorial in the sense that they would try to chase you away from their home. They will try to avoid you if they feel threatened.

3) Copperheads and snakes in general do not intentionally stay above ground when it is cold at night. They do not function well in the cold and can't digest their food.

4) Poisonous snakes will avoid you and notify you if they feel the vibrations of your footsteps. Walk hard and the only thing you have to worry about is stepping on a sleeping one.

I'm not saying it isn't a good idea moving your hammock, but being the area you were camping, you may have moved into the area of another poisonous snake, It is PA:-)

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Snake stories on 06/28/2011 17:18:24 MDT Print View

OK its about time to hear the one about the snake crawling in a sleeping bag while someone is in it

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Snake Psychology on 07/07/2011 01:06:16 MDT Print View

No offense to the psychology of it, but copperheads are notoriously aggressive in our parts, and I'm not sure who decided that all snakes will run away, but that's *absolutely* not the case. I've seen all 3 of the primary poisonous snakes in the SE stand their ground. It's a well known *fact* that copperheads are evolutionarily prone to "freezing" instead of slithering away, more so than cottonmouths or rattlesnakes even.

I think the OP was wise to be cautious, even if moving his hammock may have been more symbolic than functional.

If you told me it was a water moccasin , I'd have said you were being a wuss. I'm not afraid of snakes at all, I used to own a number of non-venomous, and a few mildly venomous snakes and have always been fascinated. Growing up in Costa Rica taught me at least one thing: Do not "F" with members of the pit-viper family, period. Rattlers worry me way less.

Just my 2c.

Dave Jenkins
(Jinx667) - M

Locale: SoCal
Wise on 07/07/2011 01:34:42 MDT Print View

I had the odd experience last week of a rattler not telling is he was there.

We were hiking out from the Three Sisters Falls outside San Diego and I was second from the lead. I saw movement about a foot in front of me and immediately backpedaled. A 3.5-4ft rattler started slithering away from us. My friend had walked right over it. We watched slither to some rocks in the cliff a few feet away, never once setting off the 4-5 rattles at the end of its tail. The camo was perfect and only the movement set it off. I got a couple of pics and you can hardly see it with the background.

The snakes around here generally tell you they are there well before you get to them.

Eiter way being far from help is not the time to get bit, so moving away was prolly the wiser thing. Nothing manly about getting poisoned in the woods.

Pics taken as it slithered off trail:

Rattler 1

rattler 2

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Wise or Wuss? on 07/07/2011 02:46:32 MDT Print View


For you, you did the wise thing. Otherwise you would not have gotten a good night's sleep. I believe that for many reasons some people are just afraid of some things. By the time we become adults it is hard-wired to our psyche. And often there is nothing we can do about it.

I have no experience with copperheads, so I cannot comment on their behavior. However I do have a lot of experience with rattlesnakes in California. By experience, I mean I have seen many of them. I don't bother them, and they don't bother me. These snakes are more afraid of us, than we are of them.

I have a theory about rattlesnakes found around fairly well used trails. They rarely rattle, at least not in the past 20 years or so in my experience. I think it is because those that rattle are killed, and those that do not survive. We have probably influenced selective reproduction. The none rattlers live, we kill the rest. When I travel cross country, I hear them rattle, often from quite a distance.

The snake below did not rattle, and I almost stepped on it, not seeing it, as I was looking down canyon at the view. My wife saw it, freaked out, and refused to continue until I moved it. A couple hours later I almost stepped on it again, as it had returned to the same spot. :)

coiled pacific rattler

This one was pretty big. No rattling either.

Pacific rattler

Dale South
(dsouth) - M

Locale: Southeast
RE: Wise or Wuss on 07/07/2011 05:38:50 MDT Print View

Wuss! You should have relocated the snake. ;-))

alan barber
(azbarber) - F

Locale: SE
snakes, wuss, etc on 07/07/2011 07:19:24 MDT Print View

Nuke it from orbit!

It's the only way to be sure...


Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Latin American pit vipers on 07/07/2011 07:31:40 MDT Print View

Javan, had a run in or two with one of these?fer
(this one's actually in Ecuador but I saw lots while working in CR)

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Latin American pit vipers on 07/07/2011 08:58:15 MDT Print View

Brendan, is that a fer-de-lance? I've "enjoyed" a few run-ins with those suckers in Costa Rica, and I hate them. The ranger there told me that they are indeed territorial, that they mate for life, and that they can actually communicate with each other via inaudible (to us) high frequency utterings. And their hemotoxic bite packs a serious whollup, for a viper. It's not at all fair.

Edited by Zia-Grill-Guy on 07/07/2011 09:02:23 MDT.