Friday, June 16, 2006

How to not survive in the woods

I'll soon return to the flow of bug photos from Panama, but have to digress briefly. If it turns out to be substantiated, this story is extremely sad on many levels.

I can completely understand someone who kills a venomous snake because it got into the back yard or the chicken coop, or because he really wants to try out Uncle Bubba's recipe for rattlesnake chili. But deliberately, needlessly attacking a non-aggressive but highly venomous snake until it's provoked to bite is -- well, I'm not sure I can come up with the proper words for it. I really hate to call a dead guy "stupid". More likely, "drunk" and "panicked" are sufficiently accurate adjectives. But if the group really had cell phones handy, why didn't they call for help? If you find a snake's presence so terrifying that you feel a need to corner the animal and beat it to death with sticks and bottles, doesn't it make some sense that you should seek help if bitten? (There's an antivenin available to treat coral snake bites; prompt treatment might well have saved this guy's life.) I don't know which was more toxic -- the snakebite itself, or the mixture of fear, ignorance, and alcohol that would cause people to get into this situation.

Venomous snakes aren't out to get us. They're also neither toys nor punching bags for confused humans. Rather, they're living organisms that bear a potent hunting weapon, which most will readily use for defense if threatened. And this sort of incident is as needlessly dangerous as it would be to escalate a minor argument between neighbors by waving loaded handguns around.

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