A Floridian man has been left hospitalised after the pet cottonmouth rattlesnake he tried to keep as a pet bit him. Or rather, the snake bit him after he tried to French kiss it. Austin Hatfield aged 18 told his friends he liked the snake, which he had found in the wild, and he was going to keep it as a pet. His friend, Jason Belcher told reporters,
“It was a cottonmouth snake, 4 foot, and he pulled it out of pillow case and laid it on his chest and it ended up striking him on the face.”
Others present clarified that Austin was trying to kiss the snake when it bit him.
After he was bitten his friends and family rushed Austin to the hospital where is currently stable, but still being treated. One of his family members killed the snake and brought it to the hospital.
Cottonmouths are a common snake in Florida. Around 3500 people are bitten by the snakes each year in the US, and this leads to around four casualties every year. Around 70% of the casualties are male, and there is usually alcohol involved.
“The vast majority of men are bitten in the upper extremities, forearms and face,” said professional herpetologist Terry Phillips. “Testosterone and snake venom don’t mix real well.”
Cottonmouth bites are rarely deadly but have been described as immensely painful. If not treated then the swelling and reaction can cause permanent nerve and kidney damage in the affected individual.
Austin Hatfield is now facing criminal charges after police became aware that he was keeping the dangerous animal without a proper license. It takes a 1000 hours of supervised handling and training before anyone can gain the necessary license in Florida to handle and own venomous snakes.