Monday, January 5, 2009

While Walking Through the Park...

© 2008 Albert A Rasch

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.

Agkistrodon piscivorus "Cottonmouth" or "Water Moccasin"

Fish eating viper! Should be in the water away from civilized folk!

"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.

Mr Cottonmouth moments before I felt the sharp end of a fang.

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!!!
You can make a judgment call. If the hospital is close enough that you know you can get there before an ambulance can get to you and then back to the hospital, and you know you can do it safely, then do it! Every minute counts in treatment. Remember coagulopathy!

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


Bob said...

Albert, are you sure of your identification of that snake? I'm a Florida native myself, and to me that snake looks like a pygmy rattlesnake rather than a cottonmouth. Even the juvenile cottonmouths don't typically look like the snake in your top two photographs.

Do a Google Image search on both Juvenile Cottonmouth and Pygmy Rattlesnakes and you'll see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

You and your snakes! I do think it's a good thing you got that snake away from people who might not have known how to handle it, but it still gives me the willies. You have a Regional OBS meeting to organize. You can't be messing about with poisonous snakes! :-)

Albert A Rasch said...

Hey Bob,

Thanks for stopping by again! I used Photoshop to color balance and it gave me too much contrast. That's what the problem is. It does look similar to a pygmy, but it's not. I catch plenty of them too! I think I like them even less than the cottonmouth. Only 'cause they are so ornery!

I still have him so I'll take a couple more shots and get it right.


Native said...

Hey Albert,
When I was young all the old people had folk tales about snakes and what not.
The one tale which they all bandied about (and I thankfully never got the chance to test) was that cottonmouth's, copperheads and moccasins would not bite you while in the water.

Well, I would always reply: They eat fish in the water so what makes you think that they can't bite a person while in the water just as easily?

I would get stern stares from the old folks but none could answer my question properly.
Have you heard anything about that?

Albert A Rasch said...


I haven't heard that one in particular, though interestingly enough, when I lived in Alabama, I was told the exact opposite. If you're in the water with a cottonmouth, you had better shoot it before it got a hold of you.

I haven't been able to prove or disprove either theory, as I try to avoid putting myself in a situation where I might have to determine the validity of said theories!


Albert A Rasch said...


And quit sassing your elders!


Othmar Vohringer said...

I have to agree with Kristine. I am glad you got that snake away from the people. I would have walked the other way. Snakes and me do not get along. In short, they creep me out. The only way I like snakes are grilled or deep-fried with BBQ sauce.


Albert A Rasch said...


Deep fried?! With BBQ sauce?!

What about your cholesterol?


Blessed said...

I think I'll definitely leave any snake handling to you... I don't even like to get close to the dead ones!

I'm getting better about not screaming when I come across them in the yard, at the dog training pond or in the woods now though!

Matt said...

Cottonmouths, pygmy rattlers and alligators, all moving around in January. I can't wait to go to Florida again!

Othmar Vohringer said...

Albert, I am one of these very lucky people that can eat as much of whatever and not gaining any weight. My metabolism is so high that I have to eat as much as possible just to keep the weight. Cholesterol is not a big deal with snakes, there meat has practically no fat to speak off and if fried in good quality oil, like virgin olive oil, the cholesterol is greatly reduced. The BBQ sauce is home made without any additives and fat, all natural.


Brigid said...

I was turkey hunting in Southern MO with friend from up north. I'd spotted a huge Tom out in one of our fields surrounded by his little harem, but I couldn't get in close enough for a shot without him seeing me. He knew it too. My friend comes over, and dives down in the tall grass and starts crawling in. . I said "Bill. . you don't want to do that!". but he shushed me and kept going. . went in a ways and popped up and shot the Tom.

When he asked why I didn't try his technique, I said "simple. . I always see cottonmouths out here with I brushhog. I'm not going to crawl out and say hello."

Phillip said...

"Sneaky snake, he's gonna steal your rootbeer!"

Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.

Anyway, my buddy and I used to catch those things and sell 'em to a local zoo when we were kids. If mom only knew what we were up to. My snake catching days have been over for a little while now. I'll still remove one from harm's way on occasion, but I'd prefer to just give 'em a nudge with a stick in the right direction. Problem with that is, a danged cottonmouth is just as likely to be contrary, and run the way you don't want him to run.

Cool critters, though.

Albert A Rasch said...


You know how it is with us guys, we have a sixth sense that lets us know if there is any immanent danger in close proximity.

Of course it helps if you actually pay attention to it... or listen to those who know better!