Poisonous Plants

Poison Ivy may be found as a low growing shrub or a tree climbing vine. Plants have compound leaves with three leaflets, unlike VIRGINIA CREEPER, which is a non-poisonous vine with five leaflets.

The leaves of both of these plants are deciduous and change color in the fall. Allergic reactions differ among individuals. The toxic substance that causes rashes is an oil within the plant called urushiol. It oozes from areas of the plant that have been cut, abraded, or eaten at by insects. The oil may persist for five years even after the plant dies. Rashes do not spread by scratching unless there is residual oil on the skin, nor do they spread from blister rupture.

Reaction may not occur immediately after contact. Avoidance of the plant is recommended, even for those persons who are not hypersensitive. Ironically, the oil would be harmless were it not for the overreaction of the body's immune system. Wash with soap and water and wipe with isopropyl alcohol. Jewelweed also works well as a natural remedy.


Copperheads are the only reported venomous snakes found on Fort Pickett. The cryptic coloration of the copperhead allows it to blend in well with deciduous leaf litter in the woods. Most bites by this non-aggressive snake are caused by accidentally stepping on it.

Spiders - Black Widow

The female Black Widow is the only dangerous spider in Virginia. Although not aggressive, the black widow is very secretive and is usually encountered unexpectedly.

The hide under rocks, logs and other debris. They are also commonly found in the foxholes and amongst the sandbags on the ranges.

Their bite may be painful at first or may go unnoticed. Pain and swelling will usually follow. The venom causes nausea, cramping, loss of coordination and difficulty breathing. Death could occur in individuals hypersensitive to the venom or in the very young or elderly.

First Aid: If you suspect that you have been bitten by a black widow spider, seek medical attention immediately.

For more information on The Black Widow visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension website. Or download the PDF file here.

The brown recluse is not native to Virginia however that doesn't mean that there isn’t the occasional one here or there. Brown recluse spiders belong to a group of spiders commonly known as violin spiders or fiddlebacks.

This is because of a characteristic fiddle-shaped pattern they have on their head region. The spider is golden brown with the fiddle being dark brown or black. This spider is not hairy and the fiddle pattern is often shiny. They are about 1/4 to 3/4 inch long. Brown recluse spiders are found primarily in the Midwest.

Many cases of bites are reported from Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The edge of its range just reaches the tip of western Virginia, but it occurs rarely in this state.

The spider commonly lives in basements and garages of houses and often hides behind boards and boxes. Bites often occur when the spiders hide in towels or old clothes left in those areas. If you believe you have been bitten by a Brown Recluse seek medical attention immediately.

Deer Tick or Black-Legged Tick

Ticks are very abundant on Fort Pickett. Of special concern is the deer, or black-legged tick. Deer ticks are vectors of the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. During the larval and nymphal stages of the deer tick's life, one of its primary hosts is the white-footed mouse.

These mice are major host reservoirs for the bacteria, thereby passing it on to the deer ticks. Studies show that the Lyme disease spirochetes are transmitted from the tick to the host via salivation or regurgitation while the tick is feeding.

Careful removal is necessary due to the fact that squeezing a tick's abdomen while pulling it off may actually introduce the contents of the tick's gut into the host (humans in this case). Observe the bitten area throughout the following 3 days to 1 month.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include:

  • Erythema migranes, a circular red rash
  • Fatigue
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes