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If you, like me, love to handle wild snakes then at some point you will get bit by one.  If you handle them carefully, the frequency of bites is greatly diminished, but it can still happen occasionally.

This blog post is a good reminder that even the most common of snakes should be respected and handled with care:

You might not know, but garter snakes are actually mildly venomous snakes.  They are rear-fanged, meaning that they have enlarged teeth in the back of their mouth through which they deliver their modified saliva (venom) to their intended prey... or occasionally, to a would-be predator or careless human handler.

The venom of garter snakes is quite weak, but can cause some swelling and localized pain.

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To add, snakes that are ready to shed, as the one mentioned in the link above tend to react more defensively.  They clear scales over their eyes become opaque, and therefore, the snakes can not see as well or at all.  This tends to make them quicker to strike, bite and even chew on you a bit.

Having had the experience of being bitten repeatedly by a large very ornery garter snake, I have learned to not be careless with them... especially those with the tell-tale cloudy eyes that indicate they are ready to shed.  If I pick them up, it is very carefully.

Cool, I did not know that garter snakes were mildly venomous.  

A handful of other colubrids found in the USA are rear-fanged, mildly venomous snakes.  These include lyre snakes, night snakes, brown vine snakes, cat-eyed snake, hog-nosed snakes and possibly ring-necked snakes.

Hog-nosed snakes in particular have large fangs in the back of their mouth for the purpose of popping toads.  Yeah, that's right *popping* toads.  Toads will often inflate as a defensive behavior to keep them from getting swallowed by snakes.  The fangs puncture the toads and allow for easier swallowing.

See the link for a photo of the fangs:

Hog-nosed snake rear fangs

Haha cool.  That is a pretty clever defense mechanism of toads.  I'm going to try that if an anaconda ever tries to swallow me.  


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