Snakes never bite without a reason, even though people don't always understand a snake's behavior and think of them as dangerous pests. Actually, official data says that less then 8.000 people a year are bitten by snakes, and only 9-14 die, which is really a small percentage – more people die annually from a bee or wasp sting, or when they fall in a bathtub and break their neck, for example.
With this being said, let's return to the question of why snakes bite. A snake always bites for one of two reasons. One, they are in a hunt for food and they mistake your body part for food (snakes don't see well) because you smell like food. This can happen if, for example, you have handled a rat or a mouse (removing it from a trap) and didn't wash your hands. Another reason why a snake will bite you is that it feels the need to defend itself. It has already been proven that more than 75% of snake bites happen when people have tried to catch a snake or to get a better look at it, and this is the most common mistake people make when they encounter a snake.
When you notice a snake, the best thing to do is to move away and enable the snake to go its own way. Keep in mind that enough space is at least 6 feet, because snakes (when they feel threatened) can leap 1/2 of their length to perform an attack.
Be reasonable and predict that there might be snakes on sunny, open spots and rocks in the wilderness, so watch where you are walking if you are climbing. Many of the snake bites in the wilderness happen when people accidentally step on a snake that was resting on some sunny stone. The same goes for the woods in the wilderness – always make sure that you don't touch anything you don't see completely. Don't turn over rocks, don't walk through high grass, and try to stay on previously established paths. If you see a snake, simply move away and give it space to go away as well – it will surely do that, even a venomous one. Snakes don't want to fight and attack if unprovoked.
We are the Pest Education Network, a non-profit organization that focuses on wildlife and pest removal education. Our approach utilizes Integrated Pest Management, a strategy advocating prevention and humane methods.