A man from New South Wales is recovering from a near-death experience after picking up what he thought was a nonvenomous snake on Nov. 2. He found the snake during a hike and thought he’d bring it home to show his kids, thinking it was a diamond python. The snake bit the man, which wasn’t an issue until his hand swelled up and he started vomiting, prompting an emergency visit to the hospital.
Medical staff at the hospital reached out to Ray McGibbon, a snake expert and catcher, to identify the species. McGibbon informed the staff that the serpent was actually a venomous broad-headed snake, a species that looks similar to the nonvenomous diamond python.
“They did find traces of venom in the hiker’s system,” McGibbon wrote on the Facebook page for his business, Southern Highlands Snake Catcher. “After [six hours, they] sent [him] home to recover. During that time I collected the snake from his residence, got the location to where they found the snake & returned it back to its habitat Saturday morning.”
After hiking back in to return the snake to its original location, McGibbon realized how lucky the hiker was to make it all the way back before reacting to the venom. Broad-headed snakes inject neurotoxins into the bloodstream when they bite, which can lead to incapacitation and even death.
Broad-headed snakes are only found in a roughly 150-mile radius around Sydney in New South Wales. They are considered endangered. Diamond pythons, on the other hand, remain at a stable population, and they can also found in the coastal areas near Sydney. Like all other pythons, these nonvenomous snakes use constriction to kill their prey.
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The victim told McGibbon he was okay with his story being shared for educational purposes, and that hopefully it would keep others from making the same mistake he did.
“If you see a snake or any reptile in the wild , admire it in its own habitat,” McGibbon wrote. “Take photos or a video and please DO NOT try and capture it or take it home. This is a learning curve for all.”