- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008


An Arlington man was in stable condition yesterday in Inova Fairfax Hospital after reaching into his luggage and being bitten by a snake.

Officials have not determined how the reptile — preliminarily identified as a juvenile canebrake rattlesnake — got into the luggage.

The man, identified by authorities only as a coach at Yorktown High School, told fire and rescue personnel that he felt a sharp pain upon reaching into his luggage after returning from a team trip to South Carolina. Upon seeing the nearly foot-long snake, the man quickly slammed shut the luggage with the snake inside, said Chief Ben Barksdale, spokesman for the Arlington County Fire Department.

Fire and rescue workers took the suitcase outside, opened it and blasted it with a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher, essentially freezing and killing the snake, Chief Barksdale said.

“The guy who responded had seen it done on TV,” he said of the technique, adding that it can be effective for bees or other wild animals.

Chief Barksdale said he had no information that indicates the snake was placed in the luggage deliberately.

Bob Myers, director of the American International Rattlesnake Museum in New Mexico, said a snake could crawl into luggage to seek warmth or shelter, though his first instinct was to suspect some sort of prank.

The venom from a canebrake rattlesnake can be particularly harmful, but a juvenile rattlesnake is usually not large enough to deliver enough to be lethal, Mr. Myers said. Adult canebrakes can grow to a length of 6 feet.

“There’s an old wives’ tale that says a baby rattlesnake bite is worse than an adult bite, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Myers said.

He also said three or four people die each year from rattlesnake bites in the United States, out of perhaps 8,000 bites a year.

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