Stories tagged snake bites

Nov
14
2007

A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...
A rattlesnake: The first 43 times it bites you are out of love, but the 44th...Courtesy neesflynn
Two weeks ago, Ray “Cobraman” Hunter received his forty-fourth venomous snakebite. Mr. Hunter remains hospitalized at this time.

“Cobraman” was bitten on the right hand by a 5 and a half foot eastern diamondback rattlesnake while cleaning its cage. Rattlesnakes generally only bite defensively and, even then, most often do not deliver a full venom dose unless injured or frightened. This leads me to believe that the snake was perhaps hiding something in its cage, something it didn’t want Cobraman to find. Snake magazines? Or something worse?

Unfortunately for Mr. Cobraman, eastern diamondbacks have the reputation of being the most dangerous venomous snakes in North America. They aren’t particularly aggressive, but they have the longest fangs of any rattlesnake species (over an inch in some cases, close to .65 inches in a snake like Cobraman’s), and deliver a very high venom yield: an average dose is about 400 mg, but up to 1000 mg can be injected at a time (a fatal human dose is usually between 100 and 150 mg, for comparison).

After being bitten, a sensation likened to “two hot hypodermic needles,” often followed by spontaneous bleeding from the bite site, Ray Cobraman took it upon himself to drive to the hospital, despite “feeling like he was drunk.”

The “drunk” feeling strongly suggests that Ray was suffering from “severe envenomation.” Envenomation is often rated from 0 to 5, “severe” being a rating of 4 or 5. Given that initial symptoms of severe envenomation often include lip-tingling, dizziness, drooling, and vomiting, it seems that the analogy to being drunk was not far off the mark, although it doesn’t explain Cobraman’s desire to get behind the wheel of a car.

Ray’s drive was probably enlivened by severe internal pain and bleeding from the mouth, as well as swelling and discoloration of the affected limb, in this case the right arm. Rattlesnake venom also contains a “low-molecular-weight basic peptide that impedes neuromuscular transmission,” which can lead to hypotension and a weak pulse before all-out cardiac failure. It is perhaps understandable, then, that Ray passed out behind the wheel of his car long before reaching the hospital.

Ray is now suffering from renal failure and his right arm (which he stood a significant chance of losing) remains largely swollen. It is currently unclear as to when he can return home.

When asked what he thought of this, his 44th snakebite, Ray said that it was “definitely the worst.” Here we have the highlights of Ray “Cobraman” Hunter’s reactions in long career of getting bitten by venomous snakes, a Science Buzz exclusive:

Bite #1: “What? Oh no! Oh no oh no oh no! Mom! Help!”
Bite #2: “Mom! It happened again!”
Bite #10: “I’m gonna kill you, snake!”
Bite #15: Not paying attention.
Bite #22: Asleep at the time.
Bite #24: “I thought you loved me!”
Bite #25: Pretty bad.
Bite #29: Happened at church, didn’t count.
Bite #33: “This is only making me stronger!”
Bite #40: Feelings of invincibility, disdain for reptiles.
Bite #41: Crippling paranoia.
Bite #44: The Worst. Definitely.

A side note: Did you know that rattlesnakes give live birth? They do! See here!