Fatal rattlesnake bite kills Colorado man

Published: Oct. 8, 2017 at 10:57 AM MDT
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A Colorado man died Saturday after he was bitten by a rattlesnake during a hike in the Denver metro.

Daniel Hohs, 31, was hiking in Mount Galbraith Park, just 1 mile northwest of downtown Golden when he encountered the snake. He survived long enough to make it to the hospital but succumbed to his injuries shortly after arriving.

Hikers at Mount Galbraith sister station KCNC later spoke with said they had either seen rattlesnakes themselves or knew someone who had. There are signs posted on the trail warning hikers of the presence of rattlesnakes.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says there are two types of rattlesnakes found in Colorado: the midget-faded rattlesnake living in the western-central part of the state and the prairie rattlesnake found across the state at elevations below 9,600 feet. CPW reptile specialist Tina Jackson says most bites come from people trying to handle a rattlesnake, and that the best way to avoid being bitten is by giving it space.

"If you run into a snake, as with any wildlife, give it room. Don't try to pick it up. Don't try to make it move. Don't try to kill it," she said. "In most cases, the snake is not going to bother you."

If you are bitten, experts say to calmly get away from the snake and call 911. To prevent the spread of venom, limit your movement and don't let yourself get anxious.

According to a 2016 report by the Denver Post, as many as half of rattlesnake bites are dry, meaning little to no venom is injected in the victim.

And even in cases when venom is injected, the vast majority of victims survive. In an FAQ over venomous snakes published by the University of Florida's Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation in 2012, fewer than 1 in 37,500 people are bitten by a venomous snake in the United States each year, and your odds of dying from a lightning strike are greater than your odds of dying from a snake bite.

Nevertheless, the risk is always there when you venture into one of Colorado's parks or open spaces. Denver Health offers the following advice on protecting yourself:

    Be Rattlesnake Cautious
  • Look before you sit. Look before you leap. Watch where you sit and place your feet.
  • Carry a walking stick. Use the stick to whack bushes and grasses before walk on or near them.
  • Be careful around water. Rattlesnakes can swim. Anything resembling a long stick in the water might be a rattlesnake.
  • Move out of the way. If you come across a rattlesnake, calmly and quietly back up so you are out of the snake’s range (at least 5 feet). A rattlesnake's strike distance can be up to one third to one half of its overall length, but don't get close enough to measure the snake's length.
  • Leave the snake alone. Avoid provoking a rattlesnake. Avoid poking it, kicking it, throwing rocks, or trying to annoy the snake. A threatened or scared snake is more likely to strike back releasing extra venom.
  • Pay attention when camping. Check your campsite before setting up. Arrive in daylight and set up in daylight. Always check your tent and sleeping bags before climbing in. Close tent flaps when coming and going.
  • Be careful when collecting firewood. Piles of wood are an ideal rattlesnake hiding place. Watch your children. Teach your children safe behaviors, how to avoid a rattlesnake encounter and what to do if they find a snake.
  • Let an adult lead. When hiking with children, an adult should always lead and a second adult should bring up the rear.
  • Avoid letting your dog run freely. Dogs can die if bitten by a rattlesnake. Not surprisingly, dogs are usually bitten on the snout or head.
  • Avoid trying to kill or pick up a rattlesnake. A snake may be sleeping. Even dead snakes can"bite" because of a reflex action that closes the mouth injecting venom.
    What to Do If Bitten by a Rattlesnake
  • Remain calm.
  • Seek immediate medical attention by dialing 911 or calling your local poison center - 1-800-222-1222.
  • Keep the bitten arm, leg, or body part at or slightly below heart level.
  • Note the time the bite happened. Avoid trying to capture or kill the snake, but try to remember its color and shape so you can describe it. This can help with medical treatment. If you can do so safely and without delay, take a photo.
  • Remove all tight clothing or jewelry.
  • Do not cut the bite or try to suck the venom out.
  • Leave the bite site alone. Do not use any first aid measures such as applying heat, cold, electricity or any substance to the bite.
  • Avoid allowing the victim to drink caffeine or alcohol or take any drugs.
  • Transport the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible, but use care and do not convert the snake bite emergency into a traffic accident. It's best to go by ambulance.
  • More tips can be found here.