When South Carolina resident Michelle Robert stopped at the Myrtle Beach State Park for an evening stroll, she hoped to find sea glass, maybe even a shark tooth or two. What she found, however, were snake fangs – attached to a live rattlesnake playing in the waves.
The beachgoer was walking through the sand when she spotted the venomous snake bobbing happily along the shoreline. “At first, I wasn’t sure if it was actually alive,” she explained to The Sun News. “The wave would kind of toss it around a little bit. But then I saw it was swimming.”
Unsure what to do, she contacted park officials, who then called Russell Cavender, Myrtle Beach’s local “Snake Chaser,” for assistance.
According to Cavender, who deals with some of the Lowcountry’s more terrifying wildlife for a living, oceanside rattlesnake sightings are extremely rare. By his estimation, Cavender’s work only takes him to the beach to wrangle a rattlesnake once every two years.
This is, in part, due to the fact that the frightening reptiles are adept swimmers but need fresh water to survive. Additionally, however, the rattlesnake population is dwindling. Cavender explained he sees less than 10 a year total. To put that into perspective, he sees hundreds of copperheads.
“The problem with [the rattlesnake] is, they’re easily killed because they’re so identifiable,” Cavender told WPDE. “They let you know they’re there.”
“Now, you could walk across a copperhead all day long and never see it and they don’t rattle their tail,” he continued. “The rattle is basically a death sentence to them. People hear them, and they’re scared to death of them, and they just, unfortunately, kill them.”
Myrtle Beach ‘Snake Chaser’ Relocates Rattlesnake
The Snake Chaser explained to those at the scene that the snake was actually a Canebrake timber rattlesnake and should be avoided. While the species isn’t typically aggressive toward humans, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Though a rattlesnake bite is rarely fatal, it is excruciatingly painful.
Canebrakes have both neurotoxin and hemotoxin venoms, putting them among the top five most dangerous North American pit vipers.
“You’re going to start feeling pain immediately,” Cavender said. “It’s the worst pain you’ll ever experience. I reckon it’s like taking fireworks, firecrackers, and sticking them underneath your flesh, and them going off every single heartbeat.”
Upon hearing this information, Michelle Robert wasn’t put off her taste for the ocean in the least. Despite having what most would consider a horrifying beach experience, the longtime Myrtle Beach resident explained she isn’t afraid to get back into the ocean.
After taking a moment to provide some helpful rattlesnake facts, Cavender took the snake to its new home – a rural, swampy area of Horry County.