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Marines reminded of which critters to avoid

With spring in full swing, Marines are more active on and off duty. But they aren't the only ones outdoors looking for a little sun.

As they head out for humps, physical training, get on the water and do yard work at home or on base, Marines are more likely to cross paths with dangerous animals. Early this year, a second lieutenant hiking in Oklahoma endured at least seven surgeries and lost half his leg after a rattlesnake bite, according to media reports.

As the weather heats up, Marine leaders are reminding their troops to be careful. Not every snake, spider, insect or bug is dangerous and even those that are still serve an important role in nature, said Eric Fortin, the pest control coordinator at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, in a Marine news release. They maintain ecological balance by controlling bug and rodent populations.

But when in doubt, avoidance is best. Here is what Marines from California to Japan should know about their not-so-furry friends.

The Wild West

Experts expect to see fewer rattlesnakes across Southern California this summer than usual due to a drought, but Marines should still be on the lookout.

"Rain means more insects and lizards, and rodents, which eat them, multiply, as do the snakes that eat them," Fortin said.

Rattlesnakes typically send out a warning with a shake of their rattle. But if you place a hand or foot in a blind spot where a snake is resting, its first reaction may be to strike. Fortin cautions people moving pallets and outdoor equipment.

Marines along the arid West Coast should also be mindful of scorpions, which are active at night. Black widows, which make webs in cool, dark corners, are also dangerous.

East Coast

Warnings in years past have highlighted the threat posed by poisonous snakes stretching from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.

The copperhead pit viper poses a serious hazard to anyone unlucky enough to get bitten. Last summer, one sergeant suffered a bite in the foot behind his house near Jacksonville, North Carolina, after cutting his grass, according to Jacksonville Daily News. He recovered. Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, inhabit the region and are usually found near water. Neither give audible warnings.

In 2013, more than 500 calls were made to the Carolinas Poison Center for copperhead bites, Jacksonville Daily News reported.

The Pacific

Marines in Okinawa, Japan, face at least three pit vipers that live at the Jungle Warfare Training Center. Those include the Okinawa Habu, which often bites people. But prompt treatment results in less than 1 percent fatality among victims. Marines there also have to contend with cane toads. Those secrete a venomous milky toxin that is painful, but rarely fatal.

When deployed in the Pacific to places like Thailand, Marines contend with other snakes and tropical insects including deadly cobras.


In Iraq and Afghanistan, the main threat posed to Marines came from rabid cats and dogs. But the Middle East has its share of nasty critters including the camel spider, which isn't venomous, but can grow to 1 foot and inflict a painful bite.

Treating a bite

If a Marine is bitten by a poisonous animal, remain calm and seek immediate medical attention. Many folk remedies like attempting to suck poison out are ineffective. Administration of anti-venom at a medical facility is often the best course of action. If possible, take notes or photos that will help identify the species.

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