- The Washington Times - Monday, September 19, 2005


AURORA, Colo. — Bryon Shipley tracked prairie rattlesnakes across an Aurora nature preserve for five years, until the day this month he almost died.

A snake Mr. Shipley collected as part of a behavior study lunged and bit the 47-year-old researcher through a cloth bag. Prairie rattlers aren’t supposed to do that. Mr. Shipley fell unconscious almost instantly. That wasn’t supposed to happen either.

Only one or two people a year in the United States react so severely to a rattlesnake bite, doctors say.

In Mr. Shipley’s case, within a minute of the snakebite, he was purple-faced and struggling for breath. He was whisked by helicopter to Denver Health. A caretaker for reptiles and amphibians at the Denver Zoo, Mr. Shipley spent weekends and vacations at the Plains Conservation Center following radio-tagged rattlers.

The morning of Sept. 3, he tracked, measured and weighed a rattler, which then bit him through the weighing bag.

Mr. Shipley said he won’t go back into the field at the conservation center and says he is having trouble sleeping. He’s not even sure he will keep his job at the zoo.

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