The ability to identify a snake can be the difference between life and death. As most Outsiders know, there are some snake bites that are painful yet nonfatal and others that need immediate medical attention. For this New Jersey resident, his injury was the latter.
The Northeastern states only really see two types of venomous snakes–rattlers and copperheads. Really, these are the only two types that backcountry explorers should know how to identify from a distance. The rest, while we don’t encourage regularly interacting with them, are typically not as dangerous. Unfortunately, 21-year-old Kevin Murray learned this lesson after receiving treatment at a local hospital.
“I just felt a sharp sting right on my ankle,” Murray told WPVI.
The New Jersey resident admitted that he didn’t “know much about snakes. I just assumed it would be a garden snake or something that wasn’t much of a problem.”
It’s possible Murray was referring to a garter snake, which, from a distance, might slightly resemble a copperhead. While a garter snake tends to have straight lines and more complex patterns, though, the copperhead’s markings are very consistent and have large, almost cheetah-print-like spots all down its body.
Thankfully, when Murray reached the hospital, doctors were able to monitor and treat the wound without issue, and Murray survived the snake bite. However, had he not done this one small yet crucial task, he might have had a different ending to the story: Murray stayed calm.
Murray’s Calm Demeanor Helped Doctors Identify Snake Bite
While copperheads might be more common in more southern states along the East Coast (like Virginia or North Carolina), a venomous snake bite in New Jersey is much rarer. So when Murray went hiking in the Hopewell Township area, he probably thought he was just as likely to see a gator as he was a copperhead.
Quickly, the leisurely hike turned into an emergency situation. But instead of letting his panic take over, Murray snapped a photo of the snake and headed to the hospital. Even though the hiker didn’t know much about snakes, the two small actions of taking a photo and keeping his heart rate down were the smartest decisions he could have made.
Once at the hospital, the doctors could identify the type of snakebite and therefore how to treat it. Luckily for Murray, he didn’t require any antivenom, which can have lasting effects like rashes and fevers.
“They brought me to the ICU to monitor my heart rate to make sure the venom wasn’t spreading to my heart,” Murray shared.
Murray stayed at the hospital for three days to monitor his conditions before he could go home. While his story has a happy ending, it serves as a cautionary tale for other New Jersey residents.
“This is kind of snakebite season. We typically think of the warmer weather as being associated with more activity with snakes,” said Dr. Robert Bassett, the associate medical director for Philadelphia Poison Control.