A Texas Man Was Bitten By Head Of A Decapitated Rattlesnake

As it turns out, chopping a snake in half with a shovel doesn't always do the job right away.

A Texas man was bitten by the severed head of a rattlesnake
Kevin Wells Photography / Shutterstock

As it turns out, chopping a snake in half with a shovel doesn't always do the job right away.

Mr. Sutcliffe, who’s first name has not been released, is a Texas man fighting for his life after being bitten by the severed head of a rattlesnake, KGW-TV (Portland) is reporting.

The Corpus Christi man’s wife, Jennifer Sutcliffe, says that they were doing some yard work over Memorial Day weekend when the man uncovered a 4-foot-long rattler. Thinking quickly, the man grabbed a shovel and chopped the reptile in half. But when he bent down to pick up the snake’s corpse, the animal’s severed head bit him.

If being bitten by a zombie snake isn’t bad enough, it turns out that Mr. Sutcliffe’s problems were only just beginning. Whereas a living rattlesnake will generally bite the victim, imparting a dose of venom into it in the process, a dead rattlesnake will apparently release all of its venom into the victim, as the Texas man found out the hard way.

“A normal person who is going to get bit is going to get two to four doses of antivenom. He had to have 26 doses.”

As Mr. Sutcliffe’s vision began to blur and he began having seizures, he was quickly airlifted to a hospital where he was given the massive antivenom doses.

The first 24 hours after being bitten by a rattlesnake are the most critical time for the victim, but fortunately for Mr. Sutcliffe, he got treatment right away. However, he’s not out of the woods yet: three weeks after being bitten, he remains hospitalized in stable condition, but his kidney function is still weak.

There are 20 species of venomous snake in the United States, 16 of them in the rattlesnake family (the others are the cottonmouth, coral snake, and copperhead), according to Venom Byte. And though there are about 7-8,000 snake bites from venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, only about 10-12 of them, on average, result in fatalities, says trauma surgeon Michael Halpert.

The key to surviving a snakebite, says Halpert, is to get medical help immediately if not sooner; almost all victims of fatal snakebites in recent years died, at least in part, because they either refused medical treatment or didn’t get it soon enough.

“You… want to keep the victim calm, keep the bitten area above the level of the heart slightly, and get the patient to the nearest emergency room.”

And by the way, you may think that you should treat a snakebite victim by sucking out the venom: don’t do that, says Dr. Halpert.