To the editor:
As a biologist with more than 40 years experience with venomous snakes of the Great Plains and Kansas, I take serious issue with the misleading statement attributed to Joe Collins regarding snakebite by the massasauga rattlesnake.
Collins said, "If you get bit, you'll swell up, be in pain and probably utter some new English word combinations, but you won't die." At a bare minimum, that may be true, but his flippant statement belies the serious consequences that may occur as a result of a bite by the snake. Massasaugas have an exceptionally potent venom, in spite of their small size.
The two most serious snakebites in which I was involved were caused by this rattlesnake. Two adult men bitten by this snake required dozens of vials of antivenin, critical intensive care treatment, and, if not for the heroic efforts of experienced medical care personnel, I have no doubt that both men would have died. They spent many weeks in recovery. In addition, just last year a bite by this snake caused a serious envenomation to an adult in south-central Kansas.
For a professed herpetologist, Collins' attitude that a bite from this snake should be taken anything but seriously is irresponsible. Massasaugas do have the ability to kill humans, especially children, older adults or immuno-compromised individuals. Although one's chances of dying as a result of a bite by this snake are slim, its ability to cause serious injury and morbidity cannot be taken too lightly. As someone who has himself received significant medical treatment for snakebite twice in the past year, Collins should know better.