The snake-bite season began early this year in Georgia, and wildlife experts blame the mild winter.
The Georgia Poison Center historically gets its first snake-bite calls around the beginning of March, but this year, the calls started in January, according to Channel 2 Action News.
“We’ve seen a little bit higher rate already of bites,” Dr. Gaylord Lopez, director of the Poison Center, told Channel 2.
A total of 120 Georgians so far this year have gone to hospitals for copperhead and occasional rattlesnake bites, Gaylord said. In a typical year, nearly 400 state residents get treated for snake bites.
James Burnett of Hiram is among them. Burnett was reaching into some brush to clear a backhoe recently when a baby copperhead got him.
“It bit me right here – two little red spots not even a quarter of an inch apart,” Burnett told Channel 2. “And within an hour, my hand swelled up to be as big as a boxer’s mitt.”
Burnett was in an intensive care unit for three days.
“I’ve been through some accidents in my life, but I’ve never had any kind of pain like that snake bite,” he said.
The pain was excruciating. The bill for his medical treatment, Burnett said, was worse: nearly $250,000.
To avoid snakes, wildlife experts recommend that people not leave debris piles of wood, leaves or heavy brush in the yard where the reptiles can hide; and that they keep garbage that can attract mice and rats, which snakes eat, away from the house.
If you see a snake, don’t try to kill or move it. It will leave on its own soon enough.
A Piedmont Hospital website urges anyone who’s been bitten by a snake to call 911 and immediately seek medical attention. Try to remember the color and shape of the snake to aid in treatment, and stay still and calm.
If you can’t get to the hospital right away, lie or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart. Wash the bite with soap and water, and cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
Never try the old Boy Scout remedies of putting ice on the wound, applying a tourniquet, slashing the wound with a knife or sucking out the venom. They don't work and could make things worse.
AM NOTE: The King Snake is truly an asset to the residents of Milton and throughout the Southeast. While this non-venomous friend feeds on rodents, it's primary food are venomous snakes like the copperhead, rattlesnake, and cotton mouth. Thus, if you see one of these large snakes in the middle of the road or in your yard, do you best to protect them from harm. They could end up saving your life one day. To read more about the King Snake, please click here.