Charlie and I where just finishing up our morning jog. Charlie doesn't seem phased at all, with his four legs and all, but you know the point, where your lungs are burning a bit, and your legs are getting that leaden feeling? I was there. But I hadn't reached my marker from two days ago. I had thrown down a palm frond where I had stopped the last time. I try to get a few yards further every day.
There it is, just a few more paces. As I am ready to drop my victory stomp on the frond, I see that a venomous serpent has taken up residence on my frond! Through a supreme display of physical prowess, I heroically lengthened my stride, and my Vibram soled and booted foot, fortuitously for Mr. Cottonmouth, landed a couple of feet beyond his pointy little head.
"This just won't do!" I thought to myself. Lots of folks walk their dogs around the ponds and children fish and play around them. More than likely it would find itself being beaten to death with a stick. Pulling Charlie back a bit, I searched for a small branch I could pin him down with. Finding a suitable one, I wrestled him down and put a head lock on him.
As I mentioned in my previous article Cracks in the Sidewalk, Theses smaller cottonmouths are squirmy little bastards. This one was no different and just grazed my finger with the tip of his fang. Fortunately there was no penetration whatsoever. But that sure put my heart into overdrive!
I don't know how many of my readers are youngsters. For you kids reading this, remember a couple of things:
- Mr Albert has been doing this a long time.
- I have a great respect for the danger involved.
- Parents, and especially Moms, will make your life miserable if you do stupid stuff.
- Just because Mr Albert cusses occasionally and while under duress, doesn't mean you can.
For you older readers:
- Take your kids out more often. I know as well as you that you're busy, but make the time.
- Don't do stupid things unless you know the consequences and are willing to accept them.
- Don't blame me if you get snake bit!
I did a little research when I got back in the house. The anti-venom for a Cottonmouth bite is called Crofab Crotalidae Polyvalent Immune Fab (Ovine). It is critical to get anti-venom in the patient as soon as possible to minimize necrotic damage to the tissue and coagulopathy. Coagulopathy is a fancy word for bleeding like Hell from every orifice in your body. The anti-venom works by binding to the venom toxin and neutralizing it, so the sooner its in you, the sooner it gets to neutralizing. Now it has mercury in it, so I'm not convinced that the venom is any worse than the cure. But if I were bit, I probably wouldn't worry about the potential for mercury poisoning! If you are allergic to pineapples or papaya you could be in it deep too! You can read all about it here on the Drug Sheet.
I also bumped into this: Snake Bite News. I don't know why, but it is very dated; the last entry is May 2004. I'll see if I can track the owners down and get an update on it.
While we are at it, lets go over the basic steps to take if you or anyone you know has been bit.
- Call 911.
- Get everyone away from the snake. No sense getting someone else bit!
- Try to identify the snake. No, don't ask for it's name, just try to figure out what kind it was.
- Keep the victim calm. Nothing speeds up envenomation like a wildly beating heart.
- Keep the struck section lower than the heart.
- Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink. Period.
- If the victim has been consuming alcohol, and this was caused by stupidity, assist the victim to a standing position, and ask the victim to bend over. While bent over have him kiss his own ass goodbye.
- Get them to a hospital immediately. Try to call ahead so they are ready!
- DO NOTs: Do not ice the injury down, do not use a tourniquet, do not cut the victim up like in the westerns, and above all, DO NOT PANIC!!!
Well, we got back without any more incidents. The rest is anti-climatic, I took him to my shop, put him in a bucket, and later today I'll take him to a preserve somewhere where he can hopefully pass the rest of his days in peace and tranquility.
It is late in the evening now, and I have had the opportunity to educate some more of my neighbors. Two little ones were playing on the playground, so I thought I would give one of my impromptu nature talks. I cleared it with their mom and using all my skill and smarts, was able to allow these kids an opportunity to see and touch a real live snake. I really need to catch a good sized red or yellow rat snake. Far safer and less nerve wracking than a cottonmouth. Now both of them can identify a cottonmouth and they know it's very dangerous! We also talked about alligators, and about not playing near the ponds. And cattle egrets, American goldfinches, St. Augustine grass, pine bark nuggets, concrete...
Albert A Rasch