Man survives bout with poisonous snakes Horse throws him onto copperheads

June 07, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Timothy James is feeling pretty poorly, but he's in great shape for a man who had to grapple with a nest of poisonous copperhead snakes.

James was riding his horse, Dancer, on a Catoctin Mountains trail Wednesday evening near Smithsburg in Frederick County when, as they crossed a rain-swollen creek, his horse apparently sensed the nest of snakes and balked, throwing James onto the nest.

"I went right in the middle of them, and they ate me up," James, 31, a Thurmont construction worker, said yesterday after his release from an overnight stay at Washington County Hospital. "They blend right in with the leaves. There's enough snakes down there to make your own snake farm."

Although copperheads are venomous, their bites are rarely fatal. Doctors counted at least six bites on James' hands and legs. When he landed on the nest, the snakes swarmed on him.

"I had to actually physically take one off my thigh," he said. "He got stuck in the muscle."

The horse apparently was not bitten. James remounted and rode back to the Catoctin View Farm, where he boards his horse. Patty Renner, a friend who is the farm's proprietor, was giving a riding lesson when she saw a pale James ride up.

"I asked him what was wrong, because he looked pretty bad," Renner said. "He looked pretty sick and in pain."

She called 911, and the dispatcher told her to have James sit down and keep the bitten areas lower than his heart so that the poison wouldn't spread, and not to give him anything to drink.

"I tried to stay in control and try not to freak out," she said.

At the hospital, it turned out there wasn't much that could be done for James. "They had [snake anti-venom], but I'm allergic to it," he said. "I just sweated it out."

He decided yesterday that he would rather be sick at home.

Snakes or no snakes, James said, he is ready to get back on his horse. "I'll be back there this weekend, I hope, if I get to feeling better," he said.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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