U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia may be scanning the horizon for Iraqi tanks and planes, but the Pentagon is also concerned about the danger that lurks underfoot.
There are at least 10 species of poisonous snakes in Saudi Arabia that live in rocky hillsides, deserts and populated areas, according to the Armed Forces Pest Management Board. They include the Egyptian cobra, the saw-scaled viper, the desert black snake, the puff adder, the Arabian bull viper and the Sahara sand viper. Injuries caused by the snakes range from tissue damage to uncontrollable internal bleeding and nervous system failure, with some bites capable of bringing on death in 10 or 15 minutes.
The military, as a result, is seeking an expert in poisonous desert snakes.
"The idea is, we'd like to have some personnel there who will be able to identify the snakes," said Robert Wardwell, an entomologist with the Pest Management Board. "It's a medical threat for us. I'm sure our people aren't familiar with what goes on over there."
No specific military gear is issued to repel snakes, although high-topped combat boots offer some protection, a military spokesman said. Anti-venin injections will be available to treat soldiers suffering snake bites, he said.