Snakes in the Suburbs – Part 2


Expertise Includes:

    • Machine Design & Safeguarding
    • Machinery & Equipment Analysis
    • Products Liability
    • Risk Assessment

In Part I of this blog, I told about getting bitten by a 25-inch long copperhead and my subsequent treatment. In this part, I will reconstruct the incident and share some learnings from it.

I was designing a bookshelf that I was going to build for my son and his wife. I wanted to take a picture of a rosette that was in the shop and email it to them to see if they wanted to use it as part of the decorative trim I was proposing. It was my intent to run up to the shop, get the rosette, take a picture of it with my phone and email it along with a picture of the plans to them. It was a five minute job. I left the house and told my wife I would be back in a minute.

The copperhead was 25 inches long.

The copperhead was 25 inches long.

My woodworking shop is in a 24ft by 36ft building in our back yard. I raised the garage door, walked to the light switch and then across the shop to a lumber rack on the opposite wall. As I walked by the planer, I probably hit the bed of the planer right before I felt my right leg stinging above the knee. I looked down, pulled up my shorts leg and saw two holes in my right leg. I then looked down on the ground and saw a 25-inch long copperhead curled up on the floor right beside the base of the planer. I immediately found a shovel, killed the snake, left him on the floor and returned to the house.


The copperhead was 25 inches long and had a distinctive diamond pattern on his back.

Note the distinctive diamond patterns on his back.

The base of my planer is 23-1/2 inches off the floor. It is steel and would have been cool to a snake on this 95 degree South Carolina day. I conclude the snake was probably sitting on the base of the planer in the dark shop trying to stay cool, when all of a sudden I walked in, turned on the light, walked by the planer and hit the taller bed of the planer with my waist. The startled snake, feeling threatened, lunged from the base and bit me in the leg with his two fangs. The bite in my leg was 25 inches off the floor. I never saw the snake before I felt the sting. Having lunged about a foot away from the base of the planer to bite my leg, the snake had nothing to support him and fell to the ground. That’s why when I first saw him he was laying on the floor coiled up near the front of the planer.

I stayed calm during the process, I knew that it would be a good idea to kill the snake, in case I had to be treated, so that the hospital would know what type of snake bite they were treating. I killed the snake by hitting him with a shovel and after my wife and I decided we needed to go to the hospital I collected the snake and took him with me to the Emergency Room at the new Palmetto Health Baptist Hospital in Irmo, SC.

I have learned that about 8,000 people in the United States are treated for snakebites each year and of those 8,000, only 12 people die. In the southeast, the four poisonous snakes are rattlesnakes, copperheads, cotton mouths and coral snakes. The rattle snake is reportedly the most dangerous of these four.

The anti-venin I was treated with is Cro-Fab.

I learned several important lessons through this event.

Using your keys to go to the hospital is the best thing you can do for a snakebite.

Using your keys to go to the hospital is the best thing you can do for a snakebite.

  1. The most important thing you can do when you get a snake bite is get your car keys and go to the nearest emergency room.
  2. It is a good idea to kill the snake and take it with you, if you can do that safely.
  3. It is not recommended that you cut the skin between the snake bites, suck the venom out, apply a tourniquet or apply ice. Instead just remain calm and keep the limb as immobile as possible.
  4. Snakebites are serious. It would have been a mistake for me to have not gone to the hospital for immediate treatment.
  5. You are not in control of your life. There is a sovereign God that is in control of everything. My evening plans changed in a split second. I had no idea even five minutes before I was snake bit that I would soon be in an Emergency Room and in the hospital for the next 36 hours.

I encourage you to respond quickly should you encounter and get bitten by a snake.

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