Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Avoid Gettin' Snake Bit! A Chronicles' Classic

© 2008, 2009, 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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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, what do I see, but a coiled up, venomous serpent that has taken up residence on my frond! Through a magnificent and supreme display of physical prowess, that would hav emade Hercules green with envy, I heroically lengthened my stride, and my Vibram soled and booted foot, fortuitously for our poison toothed friend Mr. Cottonmouth, landed a couple of feet beyond his pointy little head.

Pygmy Rattler... Beats me what I did with the cotton mouth photos!

Ornery little boogers!
Should be in the woods 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 the ever curious Charlie back a bit, I searched for a small branch I could pin him down with. Finding a suitable one, I wrestled his uncooperative and fiesty body 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,

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member: Shindand Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Albert Rasch,HunterThough he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.


SimplyOutdoors said...

Ahh, the advantages of living in the upper Midwest. The only thing I have to worry about is an occasional Michigan rattler; I've never ran into one yet, though.

Despite that, this is still some great info, Mr. Albert. I hope you're taking care of yourself, wherever you may be.

Bion said...

Albert, is the cottonmouth in between your fingers the same snake as the other two photos? The snake in your fingers looks darker, and the other two look like a pigmy rattlesnake...

Bion said...

Here's a pic of a pigmy, for what it's worth: http://www2.stetson.edu/~pmay/quiz/5d.htm

Albert A Rasch said...

Hey Bion!

It's the camera and picture. It's a cotton mouth in my hands for sure, and if memory serves me, it was the same cottonmouth on the ground.

Best regards,

Ian Nance said...

Good story and solid advice. Although, as you know, my strategy is to deny their existance!!!

Jay said...

Just followed this link over from Ian's blog and saw this story. It's very cool that you don't kill the snakes you find. I am a herpetologist, although not currently employed as such, and just wanted to let you know that without any doubt the snake in your first 2 pics is without a doubt a Pygmy Rattlesnake. The one in your hand is a Cottonmouth. Crofab is the same antivenom (or antivenin if you prefer) used for all snakes in the subfamily Crotalinae (Cottonmouth, Copperhead, and all Rattlesnakes). The only exception for us in the southeast would be the Coral Snake. Bites from Coral Snakes are pretty rare as you probably know. I think you have a pretty good outline for handling a snakebite emergency. I especially like the one about getting other folks away from the snake. Too often someone else is likely to be bitten in an attempt to kill the snake. I wouldn't worry too much about ID as long as you know it isn't a Coral Snake as Crofab is the magic juice for everything else. However, antivenom is dangerous (and very toxic in its own right) when not used properly, and most doctors don't see enough snakebites to really have much practice. I've seen more than one case where I'm pretty sure the MDs poisoned (read "killed") the patients with antivenom. The best thing is to avoid snakebite altogether. Be careful out there picking up pitvipers. I would really recommend not picking them up by hand at all. If you're in the habit of moving them a lot, save yourself the risk and use a tool (hook, stick, whatever) and a 5 gallon bucket (preferable to a bag).
Cool post, I'm glad you didn't get bitten. I never have been, and have no intention of ever becoming one of the old snake guys that thinks it's cool to have a snakebite story. From what I've seen, it's no fun being bitten.
Keep up the good work!

Albert A Rasch said...

Now that y'all mention it and I look at the pictures... You're right! I remember that pygmy now. Caught him by the car wash, and let him go a short time later in a "wilder" area. Beats me how I got the pictures mixed up, and how I got the IDs wrong...

Thanks for stopping by and filling us in with the new information. I always appreciate the expert's knowledge, and I will do an update on the post including your information.


Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Spoons: They're Not Just for Cereal!