Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Friday, June 17, 2011:

I did some woods time today, after factoring in the wind factor for surf fishing. It was nice, though a tad hot-ish when the sun broke free from borderline threatening clouds. No-see-ems got so bad I shortened my stay.

I got an email forwarding a news story about an Ocean County motorist was bitten by a timber rattlesnake on Stage Road, Tuckerton.

Per reports, the snake was in the roadway and the man was trying to help it along to the other side. To urge the rattler on, the man pinned down the snake’s head and grabbed it. Something didn’t go according to plan.

As many snakes are inclined to do when hand-grabbed, the rattler wrapped around the man’s arm. Then, using surprisingly strong body muscles, it managed to wrest its head from the man’s finger hold. Bad written all over that.

Since the snake had established a couple major arm wraps, leading to its pulling free, it had plenty of hold-on time to administer a fanged message to its captor’s bicep – before unwrapping itself and escaping into the woods. Yet another case of a creature zipping off, thinking, “What the hell was that all about?”  

The good snake Samaritan turned snake bite victim, drove to the nearby Bass River park, where on-duty park authorities alerted 9-11 and a chopper was duly called in.

As of this typing I hear all has ended well – and kinda quickly.

I’ve handled my fair share of timber rattlers and can assure they are NOT biters – until they’re scared to hell and back. From what little info I have, it sure seems the snake might have delivered what’s called a “dry” bite. That’s where a poisonous snake is not biting to kill but just to get the freakin’ creature grabbing it to let the hell go. Had a full dose of toxin gone into the victim, I can’t imagine him being released so quickly. Even with antitoxin, there is some flesh damage caused by a toxic bite -- nothing you can rapidly return home after. What’s more, a bite to the bicep is very bad due to its proximity to vital organs.

By the by, I’m not even remotely going into a stern lecture mode, aimed at the rattler grabber. It seems he was trying to help the snake across the road – sort of a good thing, even though it was heading there any way. Even more, I’m often among those who just have to touch the wildlife merchandise, so to speak. Big difference is I’ve touched before – including touch-and-show grab-sessions involving huge cottonmouths (Georgia) and absolutely enormous eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (Cape Canaveral, Florida). I will emphasize that when you do a head grab (I now only do tail grabs), you have to grasp as if your life depends on it. Duh. Also, (after the fact alert) you don’t allow a grabbed poisonous snake to wrap around any part of your body.  

And I should know. I once made a poor grab on a coral snake, one of the smallest highly toxic snakes out there. I had been permitted to hunt herps on a ranch between Cocoa Beach and Orlando, Florida, i.e. middle of nowhere, antitoxinless zone. I came across the gorgeously colorful 18-inch snake – fresh from a skin shed -- after having just handled a number of monster snakes. In a heartbeat, that little bugger essentially wormed its way out of my grip, a bit eel-like. Making matters way worse, I had purposely allowed it to weave the rest of its short body within my fingers. I did that because this is another reluctant biter -- and very terrestrial. It actually feels more secure – and somewhat calmer -- when it isn’t being dangled in mid-air.

When I realized the coral snake head was coming out of my grip, I went into a red-alert and commenced to wrist flicking. Somehow that tiny serpent managed to hold tight. Fortunately, my crazed hand shaking didn’t allow it to accurately aim a bite before I finally did manage to de-snake myself. It was too close for comfort.  Coral snakes have a neurotoxin that keeps on giving – pain and permanent nerve damage – once even a small amount is introduced into the body.

If the grabber of that snake happens to read this column, I’m very glad you’re OK -- and maybe we can chat about the event. 609-290-1968

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