Experts: Venomous Snakebite Deaths Rare Despite Missouri Case

Wading through a Missouri river proved fatal for a 37-year-old man who died Saturday morning after refusing to seek medical attention for a snakebite he received the night before.

Gilbert De Leon reportedly shouted to his girlfriend that he had been bitten while he was in the water. After he got out, he noticed he had snakebites on both of his legs. But despite his girlfriend’s pleas, De Leon declined to seek medical attention for the snakebites, according to a USA Today report. He shrugged off the incident and went to sleep and did not wake up, according to Christian County Coroner Brad Cole.

Fang marks on De Leon’s leg indicate it was not a large snake that bit De Leon, according to Cole.

While snakebite incidents are rare, experts say victims should always seek out medical attention immediately after being bit.

Before De Leon’s death, only two human deaths have been attributed to snakebites in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. One death was in 1933 by a timber rattlesnake bite, and another resulting from a copperhead bite in 1965.

Snake sightings are common during the months of April and May, Jeff Briggler, an herpetologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

As temperatures rise, it’s more common for snakes to be more active in the evening and late night hours.

“This is the time of year that snakes are coming out of their wintering sites,” Briggler told The Kansas City Star.

According to the Missouri conservation department, there are some five species of venomous snakes local to the area, including copperheads, cottonmouths, and three types of rattlesnakes.

Lab tests for De Leon’s death will take at least six weeks, according to the local coroner, but it’s likely he was bitten by a cottonmouth snake, a species that commonly lingers around water, according to Briggler.

Although De Leon reportedly did not handle any snakes, experts say most snakebites result from people trying to come near them and pick them up.

While snakebite deaths are a rare occurrence, experts encourage residents to remain vigilant and seek medical attention immediately if ever bitten by a snake.