Hunter bitten by snake, which was not hibernating


GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – We’re weeks into hunting season, and one Kansas man found out the hard way that snakes are on the prowl, not sleeping.

A hunter was bit by a rattlesnake on Monday in Gray County and was taken to a local hospital.

If you think it’s rare to hear of a snake bite this late in the year, you’re right, and the weather’s to blame.

“We haven’t had a good frost yet,” explained Whitney Buchman with the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City. “Normally we have a good frost in September or October, which usually sends them going underneath for hibernation.”

It’s not just snakes that are up and about.

“I’m sure people have noticed insects and things, other things that would normally be hibernating at this point,” said Buchman.

Bugs are one thing, but snakes? Once hibernation begins, snakes are unlikely to attack humans unless a warm day wakes them back up.

“If we consider the deepest sleep you’ve ever been in, and it’s even deeper than that,” said Buchman about hibernation. “There’s nothing going to be waking up something that’s in a torpor or a hibernation state.”

Because of the timing, it’s rare for quail and pheasant hunters to have to worry about snake bites.

“This is the first time I’ve personally heard of a hunter being struck by a rattlesnake during a hunt in western Kansas,” said Ron Kaufman with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, “but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before.”

Experts recommend covering up in tall grass and being very careful where you step. They also say not to reach blindly under logs or in holes, because that can scare snakes.

“The primary reason they would bite somebody is the snake itself is actually frightened,” said Buchman.

In Kansas, bites from venomous snakes are rarely deadly but can be extremely painful.

There are five species that live in Kansas, so keep an eye out when you’re off the beaten path.

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