Woman bitten by cobra charged by Natural Resources Police

Second poisonous snake found in home of Hydes resident

February 03, 2010|By Nick Madigan | nick.madigan@baltsun.com

A 58-year-old woman is to appear in Baltimore County District Court on April 8 to answer charges that she had two poisonous snakes in her possession, a violation of state law.

Betsy Nighthorse, a resident of the rural community of Hydes, was charged with two counts, one for a monocled cobra she claimed to have found in a parking lot and the other for a rattlesnake that police officers came across when they went to the woman's home a week later to question her.

"They saw it in plain sight," said Sgt. Art Windemuth of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, referring to the two officers' discovery of the neotropical rattlesnake on Monday.

Nighthorse, who faces fines of up to $1,000 on each count, came to the police's attention on Jan. 24, when she showed up at a White Marsh clinic complaining that a cobra had bitten her finger, touching off a two-state scramble for antivenin to save her.

The woman, who brought the 2-foot-long cobra with her in a bag, said she had been bitten when she picked up what she thought was a stick in the parking lot of the White Marsh Mall.

Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said the woman was sent to Franklin Square Hospital, then to Johns Hopkins. Calls were made to the county health department, Falls Road Animal Hospital and the Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore.

When a supply of antivenin was located at the Philadelphia Zoo, Pennsylvania police agreed to fly it to Baltimore. But bad weather forced officials to have 10 vials driven 100 miles to Hopkins. Nighthorse reportedly received nine vials, and was released from the hospital the following day.

The 2-year-old cobra, described as captive-bred and well cared for, was driven by Natural Resources Police to the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo near Frederick.

Nighthorse's story about finding the highly poisonous snake in a parking lot surprised snake experts, who said the animals, normally found in Southeast Asia, could not survive outdoors during a Maryland winter. Such finger bites, they said, are typical of injuries to careless snake handlers during feeding.

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