Researcher recovering from rattlesnake bite
Posted Thursday, July 9, 2009 10:51 am
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, July 09
SHEFFIELD — A researcher is recovering from a wild timber rattlesnake’s bite that occurred over the weekend, only the second of its kind in the state’s modern history, according to officials.
The state’s Environmental Police refused to idenfity the man, saying the matter remains under investigation.
But the man is recovering from the snake bite, according to Tom French, MassWildlife assistant director for natural heritage and endangered species.
A group was researching timber rattlesnakes Saturday morning on the Race Brook Trail off South Undermountain Road in Sheffield, when the venomous snake bit one of them in his right calf, according to police logs.
Rattlesnake bites are extremely rare in Massachusetts. The only other wild rattlesnake bite on record took place in the 1950s, according to French.
Rattlesnakes typically only bite when provoked, said French. He said the researcher was photographing a snake they had been studying for some time, when another snake he was unaware of bit him.
“It was an actual accident where the person was not deliberately dealing with the snake that bit them, got too close to it, and it lashed out and bit them,” said French.
The victim walked to the road on his own. While the wound was not believed to be life-threatening at the time, he was later transported by helicopter to an undisclosed hospital.
Timber rattlesnake venom can be fatal, causing swelling, along with damage to skin and muscle tissue by the explosion of blood cells. There are no records of anyone in the state dying from the snakes bite though, and French said the victims wounds were not severe and the damage remained local.
Timber rattlesnakes can grow up to 6 feet long, and can be yellow, gray, dark brown or black, with dark V-shaped crossbands on their back. Along with copperhead snake, they are the state’s only indigenous venomous snake.
Once prevalent throughout the Northeast and down the Appalachian trail, the snakes are now extremely rare and have been eliminated in several states. They are currently listed on the state’s endangered animals list, living in four regions in roughly eight isolated groups. While no measurement has been conducted on their remaining numbers in Massachusetts, there may be fewer than 200 left, according to French.
The reason so few remain, French said, is the declining habitat and continued killings by humans that see them as a threat.