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In Western Ghats, India where I hike, the grass grows tall in the monsoon season. It very well exceeds human height (taller than 7 feet). Last month on a hike the trail suddenly went into such grass. I walked through it to the other side anyway. Only then I realised that there could have been snakes there.

Edit: Snakes are what came to my mind, but the question is not limited to snakes. I want to know what precautions we can take to avoid any mishaps that could occur in tall grass, e.g. losing sense of direction, entangling legs and falling, etc.

  • What could endanger our safety in tall grass?

  • What precautions should we take in situations where we have to make our way through the grass?

  • Grass doesn't really need to be more than 20cm high for snakes to hide in... – Michael Borgwardt Nov 8 '16 at 9:16
  • Yes Michael, but tall grass hampers ground visibility to a great extent as compared to short grass. ( My observation ) – Captain Nov 8 '16 at 9:18
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    Additionally, does the question need India tag? – WedaPashi Nov 8 '16 at 14:20
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    I'm from the northeastern USA, and the first risk we think of when discussing tall grass is ticks and the pathogens they carry. Apparently tick-borne diseases are of concern in India, too (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540956) but I couldn't speak to whether ticks in India are associated with tall grass. – That Idiot Nov 8 '16 at 15:32
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    That's basically why I added the india tag. Because context is important. The risks will be different based on location – user2766 Nov 8 '16 at 16:21
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When you mentioned tall grass, snakes weren't the first thing that came to my mind.

Snakes can hide in plain site, let aside the taller grass. They typically want to hide, unless you aren't really entering their hide-outs. For snakes that you find in Western Ghats, they typically have their habitat in thickets and holes. Very rarely you'll come across a snake in a grassland, typically when its their basking time, and I haven't seen a snake basking in such tall grass, because it doesn't make sense. The only possibility that you come across snake if it is passing through, but eventually like most of the times it will know that something (you) are coming closer. An argument can be made that if it is so, why people in India usually get bitten by a snake or come across one while they are in a sugarcane farm or a rice farming? And, the only possible valid reason I can think of is presence of rats and other preys that snakes happily feast on.

The other animals you need to be aware of are hyenas and wolves. I have heard of and met people who have excelled at walking without making any noise. When I tried the same over a period of time and finally succeeded at it, I came across a Bison, not exactly in that taller grass, but in a similar region. So, be loud if you want to make sure you keep them away if they are around at all.

Apart from snakes there are other things you want to be aware of while walking in tall grass. The most important of them is direction. In that case I usually refer a hill or a distant mountain as a landmark before getting into such tall grass. Additionally you can refer your GPS application periodically to check if you are heading into the direction you are supposed to, if you are equipped with it.

This might be specific to the region we trek/hike around: Taller grass in Western Ghat (Well, most part of it) is seasonal. I consider season before I plan any such routes, but obviously if find yourself in a situation that you have to pass through one such long region, bang your feet (not such that it starts hurting your knees) as you walk and make sure you are with:

  • A proper trekking attire: A full pant, a shirt with full sleeves, preferably a hat or a cap. Shoes!
  • A walking stick which you can use to push aside the grass on the route. Do not slaughter the grass through the way, you can bend it enough to let yourself and your team pass. I am somewhat against that Machete thing.

Using a stick effectively would help you judge what you are stepping into. I have seen people getting their ankles twisted because they didn't see what they stepped onto/into.

If possible avoid such route during low-light, mist and night.

  • Weda, I never thought about hyenas and wolves. – Captain Nov 9 '16 at 7:19
  • I'm really not an expert, but IIRC there are also regions in India where tiger attacks are a real threat. – fgysin reinstate Monica Nov 10 '16 at 11:56
  • @fgysin: Indeed, those regions are pretty much remote and sort of inaccessible beyond a certain stage, So, Tigers are a threat but not an immediately real one, Leopards are. I came across one, a month ago. – WedaPashi Nov 21 '16 at 16:02
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When walking in long grass and one is trying to avoid snakes at the same time, you have to be aware that you are already braking one of the main guidelines to avoid snakes: Avoid walking through long grass or reeds.

Like anything else in this domain, there is no clear cut guidelines to follow that would definitely make a snake encounter non existent. No method is perfect!

Nearly all snake bites occur on the ankles (90%), hands and lower parts of the legs so covering up these areas will significantly reduce the possibility that a snake’s venom will enter your bloodstream. - Snake Survival: What Every Camper Should Know

For this very reason, I always wear tall leather boots and long pants when walking in tall grasses, regardless of the temperature. Some people actually wear gaiters on their legs, but I have never done this.

I like to stamp my feet as I walk through areas where snakes may be out and about. Although this is not a perfect method to help snakes move off your pathway, it does seems to work, at least for me. Snakes can be very stubborn, and at times, no amount of stomping will make them move. Also keep up a load conversation with your friends, as it will help give the impression to all the wildlife that you are travelling in numbers and all should use the same path.

Never step over a log, but rather step onto it and jump off the log at least a meter or more from the log. A snake could be hiding on the other side.

If chiggers or tics are in your area, tuck your pants into a pair of high socks to prevent chiggers crawling onto the ankle. You could also use a bug repellent to be applied to either or both skin and clothing.

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If you are concerned about snakes then the only thing that you can do and that you should need to do is "don't be quiet". Snakes are scared of humans and whenever possible will try to get away as quickly as possible.

A normal conversation with a buddy, the sound of your feet and even the sound of you making your way through grass will alert the snakes to your presence so that they will have enough time to get away.

Snakes hear very well and also can feel your footsteps on the ground so there is no need to try to speak load or make a big racket.

Having said that there are some cases where I have felt that I would like to give the snakes a bit more warning of my coming. This is when crossing through wetlands where the water is flowing rapidly and causing white noise that makes it harder to hear. In such situations your feet also makes less noise, so the snakes will have less warning of your approach.

Two snakes in particular are exceptions to this rule: The American Rattle snake and it's close cousin the South African Puff Adder does not try to get away when humans approach, since they prefer to hide by blending in. This causes unwary humans to approach too close, which causes them to attack and gives them a reputation as being aggressive. Neither of these two snakes prefer to live in tall grass though and they do not occur in India.

Some more hints: Be armed with knowledge about snakes and what to do in case of an encounter - consider subscribing to your local snake conservation Facebook group, read up about the topic, etc.

Snakes do not consider humans to be food. Producing poison is an "expensive" chemical process, so snakes do not "want to" bite humans, but will do it to save their own lives. Keep a good distance and healthy respect for them, don't kill or hurt them, and enjoy the amazing sight when you do see them.

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    Hi, FWIK, Snakes don't have ability to hear, they aren't aware of the sounds that are made. Its the vibration and chemical perception of odour and some of them sense the temperature differences. – WedaPashi Nov 8 '16 at 13:14
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    Even this statement, "The American Rattle snake and it's close cousin the South African Puff Adder does not try to get away when humans approach, since they prefer to hide by blending in." Thats not the fact. – WedaPashi Nov 8 '16 at 13:15
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    You're plain wrong. It was thought years ago that snakes cannot hear and only feels vibrations but this has been proven wrong. – Johan Nov 8 '16 at 13:29
  • Acceptable References, Please! (No internet garbage website) – WedaPashi Nov 8 '16 at 14:09
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    One final comment from me: I do not see anything indicating that you should vote to delete an answer that YOU THINK is wrong: stackoverflow.com/help/deleted-answers – Johan Nov 8 '16 at 15:22

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