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Herps In The News Local or national articles where reptiles or amphibians have made it into the news media. Please cite sources.

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Old 03-11-2024, 06:10 PM   #1
Martin Nowak
Circumstances of Snakebite Envenomation

The research question for this presentation and Abstract (source below):
‘What were the circumstances around the snakebite envenomation?’
'What was the victim doing?'

Once again, reptile keepers must be vigilant about how data is reported, how much data is reported, how the data is analyzed, and so forth. But more important is how the data and research are manipulated by Game and Fish Commissions and regulatory bodies to infringe on conscientious reptile keepers. I previously reported in this Forum that in the 9 prior years no person has died from exotic venomous snakebite. And very few such bites even occur. (19 bites and zero deaths) (FC Herp Forum 6-27-2023)

Back to the current topic and data report.
1249 snakebite envenomations were reported to the NASBR between 2013 and 2021.
On average, only 139 such bites reported to the NASBR per year during the 9 years.

Note: the CDC estimates 7,000-8,000 venomous snakebites per year in the U.S.
Only a fraction of those were reported to the NASBR for research purposes.

The CDC estimates snakebite envenomations during 9 years of 63,000 – 72,000 cases.
Therefore, in percentages, this report develops conclusions based on 1.73% - 1.98% of all snakebite envenomations in the CDC data base.

So, what were the circumstances?
Walking – 228 cases
Sports and Recreational – 368 cases
Hiking – 62 cases
Walking Dog – 24 cases
Trying to “save” a human – 8 cases
Trying to “save” a dog – 11 cases
Trying to “save” the snake – 10 cases
Stepping out of car – 21 cases
Reaching into a blind space – 59 cases
Ethanol / drug consumption – 129 cases (overlaps with the other circumstances)
A total of 8 categories were defined by the authors and are in the Abstract (link below).

Further categorization were “intentional” and “unintentional” interaction with the snake.
Intentional – 178 cases
Unintentional – 1,071 cases
Note: all non-native envenomations (19) were classed as “intentional”.

A serious caution I noted was the classification of “hobbies”. This word could easily not be properly defined by journalists and those with bias to infringe on reptile keepers. In this study, “hobbies” were the bite circumstances in 181 cases. “Hobbies” included “playing” and “gardening” and which were defined by the authors as “the most common hobbies”.
The “hobby of keeping reptiles” was not identified or defined. People in the herptile hobby or industry can readily imagine how those with negative bias would use a false narrative for this category.

The authors’ conclusions: “The majority of cases involved unintentional interactions with snakes in adult patients. Over 50% were associated with everyday activities (sports and recreation, hobbies, chores). Drugs or alcohol were involved in a minority of cases.”

My conclusion is that once again, reptile keepers are simply not a material factor when it comes to snake envenomation. The medical costs to treat snakebite are in the vast majority attributed to the public, and not on behalf of reptile keepers. Know the facts and how such might be manipulated.

ToxIC North American Snakebite Registry (NASBR)

233. “The Circumstances Surrounding Snakebite in the United States: A Survey of Surreptitious Serpent-Person Skirmishes” (Abstract)
Published in Clinical Toxicology 2023;61:113.
Old 03-11-2024, 09:32 PM   #2
Socratic Monologue
"My conclusion is that once again, reptile keepers are simply not a material factor when it comes to snake envenomation."

"Note: all non-native envenomations (19) were classed as “intentional”."

Could we make a somewhat stronger (if slightly narrower in scope) statement than the first quoted passage, and conclude from the second passage that no cases of envenomation by a non-native snake were unintentional, and thus no non-native envenomations occurred in an innocent bystander of any sort? That is to say, that particular data shows that non-native venomous snakes caused exactly zero harm to the general public?
Old 03-11-2024, 10:49 PM   #3
Martin Nowak
I would use the word "surmise" and agree with your statements. Almost assuredly all non-native envenomations occurred solely to snake keepers of such species. The news media would be all over such a bite from an escaped animal and the same said for a visitor to a reptile keepers snake room. I am unaware of any such sensational news articles. I did a cursory review of the North American Snakebite Registry and did not readily see indication of a study related to non-native envenomations that might provide facts concerning the victim's status related to the offending animal. Still, I think you are correct and surmise your statements are correct.

Three most frequently cited reasons by G&F, journalists and politicians to prohibit captive venomous reptiles are:
1. dangers of escaped animals
2. health care costs of treating envenomations
3. reptiles do not provide revenue to G&F (in most cases - and yes, some states require collecting license, or captive ownership license - but the states don't get a share of the industry revenue)
States allowing captive venomous reptiles seem to have more enlightened and higher IQ regulating authorities.

It would be illuminating to have an economic impact study of snake shows on local economies. I suspect they produce remarkable income for local municipalities during the few days they are active.

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