Rattlesnake bites California man who tried to pick it up with BBQ tongs

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A rattlesnake is seen in a file photo. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. (KTLA) – A man in California is recovering after being bitten by a rattlesnake he tried to pick up with barbecue tongs over the weekend, officials said Monday.

Firefighters responded around 5:15 p.m. Saturday after the incident was reported on a property in the Temescal Canyon area of Riverside County, according to a news release from the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

The man was bitten near the thumb on his left hand when he apparently attempted to pick up the venomous snake in an effort to protect children at Sycamore Creek, a development just south of the city of Corona, said John Welsh, an Animal Services spokesperson.

Firefighters treated the man at the scene before transporting him to a nearby hospital.

By Monday, he said he was doing “remarkably well” and expected to be released from the hospital later in the day, according to Welsh.

The victim has “been around snakes most of his life, hence his daring actions,” Welsh said in an email. The spokesperson added that the man told him the tongs he used were 14 inches in length but joked they were evidently “not long enough.”

Meanwhile, Animal Services was called Saturday evening to deal with the rattler.

Officer Mike McGree found the snake coiled near some bushes. Equipped with tongs that reach about 5 feet and a humane storage bucket, he set about trying to trap the reptile.

Meanwhile, a crowd gathered to watch, with some whipping out their cellphones to take photos and film the interaction, McGee said. Even after capturing the snake with his tongs, however, the officer was concerned that he didn’t have a tight enough grip on it — especially as at least one spectator got a little too close for comfort.

“One man had gotten too close with his phone, and I had to tell him to move back because I wasn’t sure if I had a firm grip,” he said, according to the release.

The snake wiggled and flailed — “much like a bass does when caught on a line” — once the tongs were around it, according to McGee. He shook the snake loose in the bucket and then put a lid on top, a move that elicited some cheers from the crowd.

“Some of the children were saying, ‘Bye, Mr. Snake,’” McGee recalled.

The officer decided it would be unsafe to release the rattlesnake near the community, so the animal was later euthanized.

“We try to release rattlesnakes within one mile of where we remove it from, but it was highly likely this snake might end up in one of the adjacent homes again,” he explained. “I didn’t believe a routine release would be safe this time.”

The area has seen an uptick of rattlesnake sightings as the weather begins to warm up. McGee himself has responded to at least four calls in the past few weeks, safely removing and releasing two of the snakes, according to Welsh.

But when it comes to dealing with rattlesnakes or other dangerous reptiles, Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer warned the public against using items such as cooking utensils to remove them.

“A coiled rattlesnake can strike the length of its body, and the bites are painful and, in some rare cases, fatal,” Mayer said.

People who spot a rattler are advised to stay a minimum of 10 feet away from the snake, according to a guide from the Riverside County Department of Animal Service. If on a walk, they should go around the area and change routes, and if at home, they should use a water hose and spray the snake from a safe distance.

Pet owners should also keep their dogs on leashes 6 feet or shorter and not allow them to wander, officials said.

More tips on what to do when encountering a rattlesnake, as well as how to make a yard more snake-proof, can be found on the agency’s website.

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