JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C.-- –
More than 23,000 acres make up the Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, Weapons Station and North Auxiliary Air Field, where Airmen, Sailors, civilians and their families not only work, but also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting and exploring.
Although most of the wildlife within the 23,000 acres consists of deer, turkeys, birds and squirrels, JB Charleston is also home to animals which have been main characters in horror films.
"The dangerous wildlife people typically can encounter while enjoying the outdoors on base are venomous snakes, alligators and poisonous spiders," said Keith Thompson, JB Charleston conservation program manager. "The most important thing to remember when you encounter a dangerous animal is to back off and leave it alone. Most animals are afraid of humans and just like you, they want to avoid confrontation."
The three species of venomous snakes at JB Charleston include the copperhead, the cottonmouth and the canebrake rattlesnake.
"The best way to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake is by recognizing the shape of the snakes head," Thompson said. "Venomous snakes have a triangular-shaped head."
Another sign a snake is venomous is the shape of its pupils. Venomous snakes have an elliptical-shaped eye while their non-venomous counterparts have round eyes.
"Rattlesnakes are the easiest venomous snakes to spot because you will usually hear them before you see them; but when you do spot one, you will see a rattle on the end of their body," Thompson said.
Although venomous snake bites are rarely fatal, they are extremely painful, said Thompson. A sure way of avoiding a snake bite is to avoid any contact with a snake in general. Most bites occur when a person harasses a snake or accidently steps on one.
"Venomous snakes are non-aggressive," Thompson said. "However, if you are bitten, the best thing to do is to keep calm, try to identify the snake, avoid physical exertion and seek medical attention as soon as possible."
Snakes are primarily found on trails, roads, wetlands and under rocks, brush and logs, said Thompson. When walking at night, Thompson recommends carrying a flashlight, even when walking in the backyard or on a sidewalk.
Although snakes are the most venomous animal on base, the biggest animal threats on JB Charleston are alligators. They can be found on roads, trails and in and around the ponds and lakes on base, said Thompson.
"Like snakes, alligators are usually non-aggressive animals," Thompson said. "If you see a gator, avoid any contact and back off. If a gator is in the middle of a trail and is blocking your path, seek an alternate route."
If a person is attacked by an alligator and survives, Thompson recommends the usual first aid procedures of applying pressure to the wound, stopping the bleeding and seeking medical attention immediately.
A third, much smaller threat in size, but just as dangerous are spiders. There are two species in the area that can cause serious harm to humans: the black widow and the brown recluse spider.
"Most spiders are harmless and like to avoid people. The best way to avoid a bite is to leave them alone," Thompson said. "Black widows are known for the red hourglass on the bottom of their bodies, but brown recluse spiders are harder to spot. They have a dark violin-shaped mark on their bodies that is harder to identify than the black widow's mark."
According to Roger Sparwasser, JB Charleston forester, snakes, spiders and alligators aren't the only wildlife on base considered dangerous.
"Some animals living on base that can cause harm to people include rodents, raccoons, bob cats, wild hogs, coyotes and even ticks," Sparwasser said. "Although spotting animals such as bob cats, coyotes and hogs are rare, avoiding any contact with them is important. And always check for ticks when leaving the woods."
Whether you are hiking, mountain biking, bird watching or walking the dog, it is important to avoid these inhabitants of the Lowcountry that we share our home with.
"Even the animals you might not consider dangerous can be a threat," Thompson said. "If you leave an animal alone chances are it will leave you alone."
If you spot a dangerous animal on base and it is an imminent threat, contact the 628th Civil Engineering Squadron customer help desk at 963-2392.