Venomous garter snakes [was: Russians create artificial human brain]

Richard Norman rsnorman at
Thu Apr 19 16:02:15 EST 2001

"Luke Campbell" <lwcamp at> wrote in message
news:3ADF48E9.1A47BE65 at
> satchi wrote:

> I, on the other hand, was actually envenomated by a garter snake.  Yup,
> harmless little yellow lined greyish black snakes that like nothing better
> do than cruise around your back yard, eating slugs and earthworms.  It was
> venomous.  It bit me.  My hand swelled up and turned all sorts of funky
> colors for a few days.  Don't believe me?  The case is published in the
> Journal of Clinical Toxicology, author one Darwin Vest, a graduate student
> the local university doing research on garter snake toxicity who couldn't
> believe his luck that some stupid kid actually got nailed by one of the
> little beasties.  I was only the second person on record to have ever been
> envenomated by a garter snake (and the first guy declined to be
> interviewed).  It seems that the wandering garter snakes (Thamnophis
> vagrans) in the Palouse region eat more medow voles than most other
> populations, and have been evolving toxic slaiva to help them subdue their
> prey.  The toxicity of garter snake saliva varies considerably from region
> region.  Most are harmless.  I have probably been bitten by hundreds of
> garter snakes from the same population (a consequence of catching reptiles
> a hobby), and only ever had a reaction to that one, and I survived without
> any permanent damage, so there is no real need to worry about the
> neighborhood garter snakes posing a threat to you or your children or your
> pets.
> I also noticed that most people cannot tell venomous snakes from harmless
> snakes.  They'll call the darndest things "highly venomous copperheads"
> water moccasins).  Rattlesnakes are often easier to recognize, but a
> identification of a rattlesnake is often only done post mortem (for the
> snake, that is, as in "Geez, the critter ain't got rattles after all.
> just been a bull snake").  Chances are the little snake you almost picked
> actually was harmless.  A good field guide should be able to help you
> distinguish the harmless critters from those that are best left alone,
> although the true water moccasins are often difficult to distinguish from
> some of the local water snakes at first glance.

The darndest thing!  It really is true!  See

Vest DK
Envenomation following the bite of a wandering garter snake
     (Thamnophis elegans vagrans).
Clin Toxicol. 1981 May;18(5):573-9.

Vest DK
The toxic Duvernoy's secretion of the wandering garter snake,
     Thamnophis elegans vagrans.
Toxicon. 1981;19(6):831-9

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list