A 14-year-old boy visiting Devil’s Den Preserve this week learned the hard way not to mess with snakes. The boy was bitten by a copperhead snake after reaching out to touch it, according to Mark Blake of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department.
Blake and other emergency responders answered a call Monday, July 6, that a boy visiting Devil’s Den on a field trip from out of town was bitten by a snake.
The boy was taken to Norwalk Hospital where he received medical treatment for non life-threatening symptoms. Although copperhead snakes are venomous, their venom is relatively mild and their bites are rarely lethal to humans.
Responders were unable to capture the snake, but based on the description provided by the boy, and the nature of the bite, they believe it was a copperhead.
Copperheads get their name from their copper-red heads. They average two to three feet long, and their bodies have a distinctive hourglass-shaped pattern on them.
Copperheads are some of the more commonly seen North American snakes, according to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University.
They are classified as pit vipers, like rattlesnakes. Their diet consists of mice and other small creatures, and copperheads are known to keep the rodent population down in areas where they live.
Unlike most venomous snakes, though, copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened. “In this case, the boy made a movement toward the snake and reached out towards it. The snake will do what it needs to do to protect itself,” Blake said.
Copperheads are also common in Weston. Last week, a copperhead was found in the backyard of the Schlechter residence on Woods End Lane. Sarah Schlechter called Animal Control Officer Mark Harper, who took the snake from the yard and relocated it safely elsewhere.
Schlechter said her sons and their baby-sitter came across the snake in their backyard, curled up in a crevice in a piece of ledge. Her son, Josh, 9, a Cub Scout, had recently finished studying snakes and knew it was important to leave the snake alone for safety reasons. “When I got home, they told me about the snake, and I called Mark Harper. The snake wasn’t aggressive. The baby-sitter and the boys were just a few feet away from it, and it never bothered them,” Schlechter said.
She said a neighbor told her they had also come across a copperhead in their backyard. “We’re more careful now when we go outside. We wear shoes and don’t go barefoot,” Schlechter said.
Blake said he hopes others will learn from the Devil’s Den experience and take precautions when encountering snakes.
Don’t tread on me
When it comes to snakes, the motto “Don’t tread on me,” applies. The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers advice to avoid treading on snakes:
• Avoid areas where snakes may be hiding, such as under rocks and logs.
• Avoid picking up or playing with any snake unless properly trained.
• Hikers are advised to consider buying a snakebite kit (available from hiking supply stores).
• Don’t provoke a snake. That is when many serious snake bites occur.
• Tap ahead with a walking stick before entering an area where you can’t see your feet. Snakes will try to avoid you if given enough warning.
• When hiking in an area known to have snakes, wear long pants and boots if possible.
When a snake bites
According to the Wexner Medical Center, about 5,000 snakebite cases are reported every year in the United States.
A bite from a venomous snake can be deadly, and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even a bite from a harmless snake can be serious, leading to an allergic reaction or an infection.
Venomous snakebites can produce an array of symptoms, including localized pain and swelling.
The center advises taking the following steps if someone is bitten by a snake:
• Keep the bite victim calm.
• Restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
• Remove any rings or constricting items, because the affected area may swell.
• If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably venomous.
• Monitor the person’s vital signs — temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure — if possible.
• Get help right away. Get the bite victim to a medical facility immediately for emergency treatment.
If treated in time, the outlook for recovery is good.
What NOT to do
There are also several things not to do in the event of a snakebite, according to the center:
• Do not allow the person to become overexerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.
• Do not apply a tourniquet.
• Do not apply cold compresses to a snake bite.
• Do not cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
• Do not try to suck out the venom by mouth.
• Do not give the person stimulants or pain medications unless a doctor tells you to do so.
• Do not give the person anything by mouth.
• Do not raise the site of the bite above the level of the person’s heart.