‘Mildly Venomous’ Clarified

Marielle Anzelone clarifies an earlier blog post she made for the New York Times in which she mentioned, as an aside, that garter snakes are “mildly venomous.” She follows up on that statement, talking to several snake venom experts to explain exactly what “mildly venomous” means: “The accepted wisdom that eastern garter snakes are harmless to humans remains true despite their ability to produce toxic substances in their saliva.”

While those who have been bitten by garter snakes usually have nothing to show for it but a few bite marks (assuming the snake can break the skin), I know that there have been reactions to garter snake bites that have ranged from mild to requiring medical treatment. (The same could be said for human bites.) This is a somewhat complicated subject, one I hope to deal with in a longer article at some point in the future. In the meantime, I’ve updated the Care Guide’s Handling section so that it says a bit more about garter snake bites.