Watch out for snakes as weather warms up

Posted at: 05/03/2013 5:38 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4


Spring is here and summer is on the way, and that means it’s snake season in New Mexico. They’re up and they’re active, and more people are up and active outdoors in snake territory – that includes places like the Sandia foothills and the Rio Grande bosque.

Fewer than a dozen people die of snakebite in the country every year, although as many as 900 are bitten. 

In New Mexico it’s rattlesnakes you have to worry about, and the rarely seen coral snake. The main thing is to watch where you’re walking in the woods or on a mountain trail. Always look over rocks or logs to see what’s lying on the other side, and never stick your hand into a crevice or a hole.

Nobody knows the territory better than  Doug Hotle. He’s the snake man – the curator of herpetology – for the Albuquerque Biopark.

“The large majority of people that are bitten every year is because they are trying to capture or kill the snake, or molest it in some other way. So leave it alone and you’re going to be okay,” Hotle said.

He should know - he’s been hospitalized six times for snakebites.

“Your best snakebite kit out there is a set of car keys and a cell phone,” Hotle said. “Call ahead and get medical help and get to it fast. Medical help is going to take care of the situation. We have anti-venoms. We have very qualified doctors.”

Do it yourself treatment? Forget it.

“You don’t want to tie a tourniquet around it to restrict the blood flow,” Hotle said. “You definitely don’t want to cut little X’s into it and suck the venom out like we see in the old John Wayne movies. Just leave it alone and get to a doctor as soon as you can. Try to stay calm, keep that pulse rate down so the venom doesn’t circulate too fast.”

Hotle said a snakebite can make you feel like your hand is on fire and you’re beating out the flames with a sledgehammer.

Now, while we’re all thinking hostile thoughts about snakes, consider this: Snake venom, increasingly used in modern medicine, is saving more lives than snakebites take away.