A Pair of Painful Snake Lessons

This week we bring you a pair of unusual snakebite stories,
where each victim learned a different- but very valuable-lesson
about poisonous reptiles.

Fangs, For Nothin’

A young New Jersey man learned a painful lesson this week: snakes
don’t need or desire help in their travels.

Nelson Drinkwater, 24, a self-described snake enthusiast and animal
lover, remains hospitalized in serious condition after he was
bitten by a timber rattlesnake he says he tried to help traverse a
busy road. The Little Egg Harbor Township man said he pinned the
snake to the ground with a stick and was bitten when he tried to
grab it behind the head-just as he’s done with non-poisonous snakes
he’s kept as pets.

Instead, the snake slipped and at least one of its fangs dug into
the good snake Samaritan’s right hand.

The actual bite felt like a gnat landing on his hand, he later
said. But almost immediately the venom, which causes blood to thin
and tissue to liquefy, made his hand and mouth feel like pins and
needles. His tongue began to swell.

Drinkwater’s mother, Donna, who witnessed the snakebite, said she
was terrified when she saw the whites of her son’s eyes and was
afraid he was going to suffer a seizure. She immediately drove him
to a nearby ranger station at Bass River State Park, where medical
help was summoned. He was airlifted to AtlantiCare Regional Medical
Center, Mainland Campus in Galloway Township, where he received
multiple antivenin treatments and remains under care.

After the painful ordeal, Drinkwater says he has an increased
respect for venomous snakes and he’ll give them more respect in
future encounters.

As far as helping timber rattlers to cross roads in the future, he
says he’ll use an extremely long stick.

But no hands.

Quit While You’re a Head? Not This Snake!

If you believe the old adage that the only good snake is a dead
snake, then a Washington rancher has some fang marks and a hospital
bill to show you.

Danny Anderson learned the hard way that rattlesnakes-even
decapitated ones-deserve respect and should never be taken

According to wire reports, the 53-year-old resident of Prosser,
Washington felt reasonably certain he’d dispatched a 5-foot rattler
after he and his son pinned the snake to the ground with an
irrigation pipe, then totally severed its head from its body using
a shovel.

“When I reached down to pick up the head, it raised around and did
a backflip almost, and bit my finger,” Anderson said. “I had to
shake my hand real hard to get it to let loose.”

The snake’s head landed in the back of Anderson’s pickup. And
Anderson landed in the hospital, where he remained for two

When he arrived at the local clinic some 10 minutes after the bite,
Anderson’s tongue was already showing signs of swelling, indicating
that he’d received a good dose of venom from the body-less

Mike Livingston, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
biologist, said he’d never heard of anyone bitten by a decapitated
snake before, but assumed there was enough life (and meanness) left
in the critter to bite the hand that killed it.

In retrospect, Anderson said he’ll likely kill more rattlers in the
future, but he’ll use the shovel to bury them on the spot.

“It still gives me the creeps to think that son-of-a-gun could do
that,” he said.


Categories: J.R. Absher

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