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Be Safe Out There! – Keep Your Eyes on the Trail image
Conservation
July 27, 2023
Be Safe Out There! – Keep Your Eyes on the Trail
Gerald Kapral
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DiscoverNEPA is all about celebrating Northeastern Pennsylvania’s abundant and vibrant natural spaces. We want you to get outside, relax and unwind in the mountain air, among the towering trees, along the crystal-clear lakes and streams. We just want to make sure everyone enjoys these places safely and respectfully.

That’s why we’re teaming up with state agencies, local conservation authorities and outdoor enthusiasts to bring you expert advice, tips and so much more to help you enjoy NEPA’s great outdoors.

Tips to Avoid Snakes and Bees While on the Trail this Summer

 

Hiking, on or off the beaten path, is an enjoyable activity during the summer.

Warm weather explorers are often dressed for the occasion. So many head out in short sleeve shirts and shorts to avoid overheating. But that comfort comes at the expense of bare skin exposure to biting bugs and ticks. Much has been published about mosquito and tick bites and the complications that go along with those bites, so I won’t dwell on that here. Numerous clothing and skin protectants are available today to keep us relatively safe from these pests.

However, two areas of concern that could potentially ruin an enjoyable summer hike are wasps and snakes.

 

 

Know what to look for.

While these hazards are much easier to detect and avoid in familiar areas, venturing into the unknown should put us on alert for their presence. Nothing will ruin an enjoyable adventure quicker than stumbling onto an underground wasp nest. Even in a familiar area, these nests seem to sometimes pop up overnight. Ever cut your grass and hit an underground yellow jacket nest — Darn thing wasn’t there yesterday!

You certainly shouldn’t go looking for underground yellow jacket nests. However, knowing how to spot a potential nest is the easiest way to avoid them.

  • Know your wasps from your bees. Honey bees and yellow jackets look similar. Both have yellow and black stripes. Honey bees have fuzzy coats, and they do not nest in the ground.
  • If you see multiple yellow jackets entering a hole in the ground, in a wood pile or dense vegetation, it’s very likely a nest. Take steps to avoid that area.
  • Yellow Jackets fly in straight lines from their nests to food sources. If you see yellow jackets flying directly up from the ground, you’ve likely found a nest.
  • If you inadvertently step on or near a yellow jacket nest. They may swarm. Walk as calmly as possible away from the nest. Running or swinging at them may increase aggressive response.

 

 

Snakes are another summertime concern.

Fortunately, we only have two species of venomous snakes here in Pennsylvania — the Copperhead, and the Timber Rattlesnake. Both these snakes, like most others, prefer to leave an area if they sense danger. They pose very little threat to humans. And venomous snakebites on humans are a rare occurrence here in Pennsylvania.

Your best way to avoid an encounter with any snake is to gain a little understanding of how they live. And, of course, to stay vigilant.

  • Snakes are cold blooded creatures. That means they can’t self-regulate their body temperature like us warm blooded humans. When it gets hot, they need to move to cooler areas for shade. If it’s too cold, they migrate to areas of direct sun to warm up.
  • Large rocks, concrete areas, or even asphalt parking lots are common areas for snakes to warm up.
  • Understand how snakes hunt. Snakes don’t chase down prey. They lay motionless in areas where their preferred food might wander into striking distance.
  • Rock piles and along large downed tree logs are common areas for snakes to ambush prey.
  • Snakes sunning themselves are pretty easy to spot. A snake lying in wait for a meal is another matter as most are camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings.
  • While walking, alternate your view from what’s ahead to what’s on the ground.
  • Don’t step over an object if you can’t see where your foot will land.
  • Also don’t ever put your hand(s) where you can’t see them.
  • If you do suffer a venomous snakebite, don’t panic! Elevate the bitten area, apply ice packs to slow the absorption, and get to medical care as soon as possible.

 

As always, get out there. Stay safe and enjoy Northeastern Pennsylvania’s great outdoors.