And the scaly little things are out and about, looking for food and water:
HOUSTON — It was just a one-fanged nip, but Mark Jenner could feel the copperhead’s potent hemotoxin raging through his finger and up his arm. As the poison spread, the 6-foot-3-inch high school football player was racked with nausea and unspeakable pain. Ten days elapsed before he recovered fully, and he came within a hangnail’s breadth of losing a fingertip to amputation. Now middle-aged and wiser, the Kingwood man still recalls the episode with a shudder of revulsion.
“I held it the way I had held them 100 times before,” Jenner says of the snake rescue gone wrong. “This time I was a little careless.”
Jenner’s tale should be a warning to Texans who, experts say, are sharing habitat this summer with hungry snakes driven from their customary turf by sizzling temperatures and scant rain.
Memorial-Hermann Hospital-Texas Medical Center reports treating an average of two snakebites a week since mid-May. And from January to June, snakebite calls to the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston’s 28-county poison center jumped 25 percent from last year.
Elsewhere in Texas, the story is similar. Austin’s University Medical Center Brackenridge has treated at least 30 snakebites since April. Last year’s 12-month total: 36.
“There are lots of snakes around Houston,” says herpetologist Stan Mays, snake curator at the Houston Zoo. “People just don’t see them.”
Most snakes aren’t poisonous, though they can bite. And, says Mays, “They are moving around more. They’re hunting food and water. … We are going through a drought right now and it’s very possible that ponds are drying up. The snakes either have to move or die.”
“Most of the old wives’ tales were written before the emergency room, ambulances and critical care,” Mattox says. “We did not understand what poisonous snake bites do.” If you’re bitten, Mattox says, stay calm. Lie down if possible. Get to a doctor. “You don’t want to make matters worse,” he said. “There are all sorts of treatments. There’s the use of an electric generator or shocking machine, the use of ice, the cutting ‘X’ marks and sucking out the venom. All of the above are wrong.”
Youmay remember my own tale of almost literally stepping on a rattler last year near a hospitl in down town San Antonio. That’s something you don’t see in Chicago everyday.