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Posted by W von Papinešu on July 30, 2002 at 14:27:37:
SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL (California) 30 July 02 Man bitten while trying to pick up rattlesnake (Jill Strong)
"Don't try this at home," crocodile hunter Steve Irwin warns as he wrestles wild crocs on his popular "Animal Planet" show.
His counsel could apply to snakes too, as a Santa Cruz resident who may have harbored Irwin-esque dreams learned while trying to pick up a rattlesnake Saturday.
"The snake was mature - it had 10 rattles," said Zayante Fire Chief Jeff Maxwell. "It wouldn't let go. The victim had time to count all the rattles while it was on his hand."
The 31-year-old victim was bitten on the hand at Loch Lomond Reservoir. He was sent to Valley Medical Center in San Jose, where he spent at least one night in the intensive care unit after getting an injection of antivenin.
The victim was trying to impress a woman by picking up the snake, Maxwell said.
Zayante Fire is called about once each year to treat a rattlesnake bite. The quicker a victim gets antivenin, the more likely he is to survive, Maxwell said.
Rescuers typically treat the victim by splinting the area of the bite to reduce movement. They treat the victim for shock and take him or her to a hospital.
"Using a constricting band, or opening the wound and sucking the venom out are old practices. They're not really effective," Maxwell said.
In their book "Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants," Steven Foster and Roger Caras write that snakes don't want to bite, but will strike back if they feel threatened or are attacked.
About one-quarter of rattlesnake bites aren't even poisonous, they say. The snakes typically save their venom for catching prey and defending themselves. Snakes are more likely to become irritated when the temperature is above 74 degrees, the authors say.
Foster and Caras recommend watching your hands and feet when walking or climbing on rocks, a popular rattlesnake hangout.
If you are bitten, stay as still as possible, the authors advise. If possible, wait for help to come to you. Nonaspirin pain killers may be taken for pain. Fatal bites are uncommon.
Most importantly, Foster and Caras say, "do not attempt to handle venomous snakes ... a large percentage of the snake bites in this country are suffered by people mishandling animals that should be left alone."