|Copperhead- click to enlarge|
Just as they were leaving from a weekend visit today, a snake swam across the water and crawled out on the solid rock shelf near where they were standing. Our guest decided to catch this "Water Snake" and grabbed it by the tail first. The snake tried desperately to escape the grip including crawling between the man's legs and over his sneakers.
|Fang puncture sites|
Within a minute he was having severe throbbing pain in the hand which was swelling rapidly. He wasn't able to ID the snake from pictures in Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri.* His buddy then got the camera and showed me the picture above, an easy diagnosis.
In the Emergency Room, it took two shots of morphine to begin to touch the pain. Within a few hours his arm was tightly swollen up to the shoulder. After the administration of anti-venom, he was watched in the ICU overnight as anaphylactic type reactions to it are common and can be quite severe. He is still requiring morphine 48 hours later.
Venomous snakes do not want to waste their precious venom on large bipeds. They probably want to reserve it for small mammals that will fit in their mouths after paralyzing them with their venom. Like most animals, they bite larger mammals only in defense.
Studies have shown risk factors for snake bite include male gender, intentional snake handling and alcohol. Virtually all snake bites occur from contacting a snake, either deliberately or by stepping on or near it.
New 2016 Study
This study in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine found that 68% of the 332 bites reported were found to be legitimate, meaning the victim was unaware of the snake's presence.
Missouri Conservationist, May 1999 issue had detailed information on copperheads.
Enature.com has general snake information.
surviveoutdoors.com has information on first aid.
Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri - Tom Johnson