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I was fifteen years old in 1972. I had been a fur trapper after school since age 12. Adults regarded my fascination for nature as unnatural. They replied, “Boy, it's not possible to be in those woods every day span>

I refused to listen to their advice. My outings were mostly solo because most teenagers like to do other activities. Being alone allowed me to be more quiet and see more amazing things. However, being alone led to a few mishaps like the one that I had in June.

Most times, you will see the snake bite and know when it has happened. The snake was hidden in the author's sleeping bag, so the author wasn’t as lucky. iStock Photo / mmpile


I had been on the road for four days and camped on a hilltop that was bordered with swamp. Three miles away was the nearest road. I didn't tell anyone where I was going, which was foolish. Teenagers are known for their lack of foresight.

Shelter was my lean-to. I had had enough trouble with the tents of that time to abandon them. My bedroll was a Korean War-era mummy bag with chicken feathers. Although it wasn't as warm or comfortable as my wool blanket, it was lighter than my previous sleeping bag.

That evening, I returned to camp and made supper in my saucepan. As I sipped coffee from a canteen, the breeze made the mosquitoes bearable. I started to nod off and knew that I needed to get up before the night chill woke me up with hypothermia.

A close look-alike to pit vipers, the non-venomous but well-toothed northern water snake is what the author hoped had bitten him.

I emptied the last swallow, and then I hung the cup from its frame. As I slipped into the bag, the sleeping pallet of bracken ferns-padded branches felt luxurious.

Then, I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle near the Achilles tendon. I ignored the pain and shifted my foot. I felt a burning sensation in my calf, but the pain continued. I was not concerned until I felt an undulating movement in my thigh. As the snake slithered along my torso, I remained still and it exited my left shoulder.

I opened the bag and pulled my socks off, then rebuilt the fire. I was hoping to find the crescent-shaped footprint of a northern water serpent, which has sharp teeth but no venom.

It was not so. The paired puncture marks on my malleolus (anklebone) grew puffier as I looked at them. I had been bitten by the Michigan's only rattlesnake, the massasauga.

I sat still as the snake slithered along my torso. An 18-inch snake emerged across my left shoulder.

A massasauga rattler like the one the author tried to get into bed with. Jonathan Schechter photo

Although I was familiar with the traditional cut and sucker method for extracting venom I didn't know that the bite was so close to the tendon that it would have been dangerous to my own health. I couldn't reach the spot with my mouth.

Now, the question was whether my reaction would have to be severe. I had read that rattlesnake bites are “dry”, and contained no venom. This venom is released by the snakes themselves, so it takes some time for it to recover. My youthful optimism was cursed and I believed that I wouldn't get sick because I wasn’t already ill. I went to sleep, and then I fell back into my bag.


I woke up feeling refreshed. When I started to pick up lengths of wood for my breakfast fire, my left ankle felt swollen and tender. The fang holes were surrounded by a discolored bruise but seemed to have done no harm. I felt a little too confident and went about my daily business as usual.

At noon, I felt ill. I was sweating and had a mild case of nausea. It was the heat that I blamed. I was then hit with poison, which sent me to my knees with cramps and shivering.

I should have walked 6 miles to home at the beginning, but it was too late. I was diaphoretic, nearing collapse, and it took all of my strength to pull myself under the leaning-to. My boots still on, I pulled the Mummy Bag over my shaking body. Before I lost consciousness, my last thought was that I had really screwed it up.

My last thought before I lost consciousness was that I'd really screwed it up this time.”

Always take care to be sure that nothing can get into your bedroll when you’re not in it.

It was night when I awoke the next morning. The constant whine of mosquitoes was heard over the fever-induced ringing I felt in my ears. I could hear their humming and merged into one giant mosquito with a long proboscis. It was looking for an opening to drain my blood. As I waited for the fatal stab, I found myself sinking into the bag and covering my head. Blessedly, I slipped back into unconsciousness.

It was already late afternoon when I awoke the next morning, and it was very hot. Two GI canteens were with me, as well as two jugs of spring water filled to the top. I consumed the contents of one canteen and then drank it all again.

It was a blur of days and nights. One night, my friends called me by name. They didn't seem to notice that I was answering them in a croaking tone. They weren't there, but I was able to see them. I was very sick and helpless, even though I was alone in the woods.

Both gallons must have been water. I remember urinating once and then rolling on my side to face the doorway. It was too weak for me to get up, so I passed out again. Although I doubt it, I believe I urinated unconscious. However, my sleeping bag was so saturated with foul-smelling sweat that I couldn't tell if.


It was the afternoon of my third day, which I later found out was when I awoke. I knew I wouldn't live to see this end – many rattlesnake victims believe they will die during their ordeal. The most frightening thing about this was the possibility that I wouldn't be found. I would be among those outdoormen who continue to disappear into northern Michigan's forests. That was even more frightening to me than the idea of dying.

Fear drove me to get up from my chair and walk slowly. I ate my last canteen and began walking unsteadily towards the nearest dirt road, which was a mile away. After walking for about a mile to reach the uninhabited dead-end road I reached my canteen and discovered that it was already dry. My tongue felt twice as big and my mouth felt like sandpaper. I craved water more than anything else.

Rattlesnakes sport a variety of markings; know which species may be found in your area, and don’t hesitate to treat a bite. James Harding photo

A stream was just a few hundred meters ahead. My feet got stuck in the loose sand but my thirst drove me to continue. Then, I stood on the creek bank looking down at the rushing water and wondered how to get there. Although I was only a few steps above the stream, the bank felt like a precipice.

I was suddenly lying on my back in the gravel-bottom stream with 6 inches of cold water swirling around me. I felt my head clear a little from the cold water. Unwisely, as some dehydration victims have died from shock and drowning, I lay down on my stomach and drank until my thirst was satisfied. It seemed like a labor of Hercules to refill my canteen, so I covered it with a towel.

Unsteadily, I arose from my chair after a long time. A gray-haired woman stood on the opposite bank, looking at me with her open mouth. I closed my eyes tight, believing she was a hallucination. She was still there when I looked again. She must have followed a rarely-used trail that led to the stream on the other side.

The woman asked Is it safe to drink?

She wouldn't have known I would have drank sewer water in my current state. It was important that she was real and that I was saved. I regained my energy and climbed up the muddy bank, shaking my legs. With each step I took towards her, the lady recoiled.

I tried to tell the woman my story, but my tongue was too thick and sandpapery and my ears could hear gibberish coming from my mouth.”

Pit vipers aren’t to be trifled with and are protected species in many states. Department of Conservation & Natural Resources photo

I tried to explain my situation to the woman, but my tongue was hard and sandpapery and my ears could hear gibberish coming from my mouth. The woman was looking at me in panic and unable to comprehend that I was seriously ill. She backed off more and more as I explained my situation. The gray-haired man joined the woman and took her arm, leading her away.

My heart dropped to my toenails. I was now less than halfway home and feeling even more hopeless and helpless. I got back on the two-track, and began walking again.

The journey that followed was not something I can recall, but I think I must have walked 3 miles on a wooded footpath. I can recall bursting through my backdoor. I jumped over walls and doorjambs and threw a lamp overboard, before collapsing onto the nearest bed. My mother, siblings and uncle all gathered. They asked me questions about my past week and what was wrong. Before falling into unconsciousness, I managed to utter “snakebite”.


My last words had been understood. My mother called Dr. Van Dillon, an elderly doctor in the area who remembered my name and was interested enough to come to our home. The old M.D. The old M.D. He was well-versed in massasauga bites. He examined the wound and checked my vitals before deciding that I had seen the worst. He advised me to go to sleep.

This venom extractor might have been the best. Care Plus Corporation photo

Three days later, I awoke feeling great, but I couldn't stop starving. My small stomach couldn't hold more than two mouthfuls of food, and my thirst was unbearable. Eight pounds had been lost, most likely due to dehydration.

My experience was very typical of pit-viper bites. An intramuscular bite is unlikely to cause serious injury. One practice among the southwestern American Indian tribes was to be ritualistically bitten in order to induce visions. They felt great after the experience, just like I did.

For me, once was enough. I have no animosity towards snakes but have learned to not leave my bedroll open for small animals. Although my snakebite experience is one of my most treasured memories, I don't think I would ever want to go through it again.




You can think like a snake. You are smaller than most predators and slower than your enemies. Your only weapon is the venom from your fangs. Some poisonous species like the coral snake have no fangs, and must bite down in order to force envenomation. You seek out places and recesses that make you feel safe, even though you may be caught in the open. This allows you to warm your cold-blooded body with the morning and afternoon sunlight.

The Sawyer venom extractor kit is a must-have item for anyone who frequents rattlesnake country. Sawyer photo

Poisonous snakes will not bite anything they don't like. They will withdraw from any confrontation and strike without warning. To avoid biting, the golden rule is to always take one step back. Even if a snake is aggressive, a female is about to give birth or lay eggs. The pursuit of a snake should be slower than a slow walk and stop when the snake has left its territory.

First Aid

Snakebite most often occurs on the extremities. The hands, forearms and fingers are more common than the legs. The body's immediate reaction to the wound is ischemia. This restricts blood vessels around the wound to help keep the venom contained. Injectable poisons can be removed by using a venom extractor to quickly apply suction.

  1. To stop blood flow and to venom to the heart, wrap a proximal tourniquet, made of a belt or rope, around the affected limb. As this could cause damage to the limb, the ideal tourniquet should be loose enough not to restrict blood flow. According to the American Red Cross, tourniquets should be loose enough for one finger to pass under them.

  2. Do not use the cut-andsuck method to remove injected poison. Doctors are unanimous in their belief that trauma around the bite area can cause more damage than good. To minimize the spread of the venom, try to keep the area around the victim's heart lower than possible. To prevent venom from pumping from the bite site, splint the elbow and knee joints.


Around 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten annually by 20 poisonous snake species that are found in every state, except Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Hawaii. Only five people are killed by the experience.

Sometimes the first strike is a “dry”, a warning.

span style=”color”: #000000 “Some 20-30% patients who have been bitten or bitten by a serpent, but haven't received any venom, are actually fang marks,” Dr. Edward L. Hall M.D. from Georgia. It will probably not strike again if it is provoked.

It is more important than first aid to get bite victims to the emergency room in 30 minutes. Although there have been very rare allergic reactions to antivenoms made from horses, Don Tankersley (deputy director emeritus of FDA's Division of Hematology) stated that “You're treating life-threatening situations.” It is clear that it is a matter of weighing the benefits span>


Since snakebite kits were made with a Bowie knife, a strong stomach, and some basic tools, a lot has happened. Modern medicine has abandoned the cut-and-suck method in favor of suction extractors. These devices draw the venom of a spider, snake, scorpion or bee from the same skin holes as the poison was injected.

There are many opinions about venom extraction kits. Dr. Sean Bush M.D. Dr. Sean Bush, M.D. is one of the medical professionals who publicly disapproved in a paper entitled “Snakebite Suction devices don't remove venom: they just stink.” This sentiment is shared by many doctors and laymen.

The Coghlan's snakebite kit shown here is a good example. Remember that you have been bitten by poisonous snakes. Don't wait for miracles, act fast. Photo by Coghlan

It appears that many people who are critical of vacuum-type extractors might be expecting too much from this simple device. Extreme suction against the epidermis can cause tissue damage. It is also well-documented that extractor syringes cannot remove all of the venom that rattlers inject into victim's muscles.

Hypodermic injection is an analogy for a rattlesnake bite. It is unlikely that a substance injected deep into living tissue under pressure could be pulled back to its original form. Although you might be able to get some, a significant amount of the substance will reach surrounding capillaries and then into the recipient's body.

span style=”color”: #000000 “The most important thing is to get to the hospital and don’t delay,” Dr. David Hardy, an authority on snakebite epidemiology, says. The American Red Cross and all medical professionals agree with his sentiments. The majority of medical professionals agree that the more quickly you apply suction, wrap the victim in a bandage and take the victim to the emergency room, the less traumatizing the experience will be. Do you need a snakebite kit if you live in snake country? Yes. Use it quickly when necessary, but don't expect miracles.

Editor's Note:

This article was first published in the August 2022 issue American Outdoor Guide Boundless.

The post BITTEN BY A MASSASAUGA SNAAKE! American Outdoor Guide was the first to publish this article.


By: amit.kumar
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2022 14:32:04 +0000

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