Photo provided by the Basket Historical Society

Looking Back

There are two species of poisonous snakes in the Catskills: the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. During this season, these snakes are coming out of hibernation.

Timber rattlesnakes have been prevalent in local mountains since the 17th century. However, hundreds of years ago, the techniques used to combat the venom of a rattlesnake bite were not quite as refined as they are today. According to Catskill Mountaineer, some white men believed that they could be saved by putting a freshly killed chicken over the bite. They also believed that if the victim had drunk milk prior to being bitten, their death was inevitable.

These misconceptions made residents of the Catskills particularly vulnerable to snake oil salesmen, who would come into towns with false claims that they were offering a magical cure to snake bites. By the time people tried out their “anti-venom,” the salesmen had left the area.

Today, modern anti-venoms, such as CroFab, are much more effective for treating bites when unlucky hikers encounter timber rattlesnakes on the trail.

The Basket Historical Society preserves and presents the history of the Upper Delaware area. Its annual meeting will take place at the museum in Long Eddy, NY at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 25. The public is welcome to attend the meeting or visit the museum. If you are interested in becoming a member or finding out more, contact us at


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