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Victim Tried to Pick up Reptile with BBQ Tongs

A rattlesnake bit a man Saturday evening in the Temescal Canyon area and he was transported to a nearby hospital. Riverside County Animal Services responded and an officer removed the snake.

It was reported that the victim tried to pick up the snake with barbecue tongs and he was bit in the left hand near his thumb. He remained in the hospital on Monday afternoon, but said he was doing “remarkably well” and expected to be released later today. (He said he wanted to remain anonymous.) He said the barbecue tongs were about 14 inches long, but joked in a text message: “Not long enough!”

Firefighters from Riverside County Fire Station No. 64 responded at about 5:15 p.m. to a property on Elderberry Lane in Sycamore Creek, a development just south of Corona. The firefighters provided treatment before the victim went to the hospital in an ambulance.

The rattler was euthanized later Saturday after Officer Mike McGee determined it would not be safe to release the snake near the community.

“We try to release a rattlesnake within one mile of where we remove it from, but it was highly likely this snake might end up in one of the adjacent homes again,” McGee said. “I didn’t believe a routine release would be prudent this time.”

As temperatures have climbed in recent weeks, so have the number of rattlesnake sightings. Officer McGee has responded to at least four calls in the past couples of weeks or so — and safely removed and released two rattlesnakes. One of those releases included a snake very similar in species and size in comparison to the snake from Saturday’s incident.

Reportedly, the victim was trying to remove the snake to protect the children in the area, but Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer advised against using cooking utensils when dealing with dangerous reptiles.

“A coiled rattlesnake can strike the length of its body and the bites are painful and, in some rare cases, fatal,” Mayer said.

Mayer said the public can learn more about what they can do if they encounter a rattlesnake — and how to make a yard more rattlesnake-proof by visiting Animal Services Website.

When Officer McGee arrived at the Sycamore Creek property, the rattlesnake was coiled near some bushes. He used his equipment — tongs that reach about 5 feet — and a humane storage bucket. A crowd had gathered and he said some were surprised he was going to use what some described as “garden tools.”

It should be noted all Riverside County Animal Services officers have been trained to remove properly and safely rattlesnakes. Nonetheless, some officers admit that the heart begins to pump faster.

“There’s always adrenaline,” McGee said. “Every time your alerts are always up. You don’t want to get too comfortable.”

Many people had their phones out to take photos and video footage of his interactions with the snake, he said. He reached for the reptile, captured it, but was concerned about how tight he had the snake. “One man had gotten too close with his phone and I had to tell him to move back because I wasn’t sure if I had a firm grip,” McGee said.

Once he had the tongs around the snake, it wiggled and flailed, “much like a bass does when caught on a line,” he said. McGee placed the snake in the bucket and shook it loose and then placed the lid on top.

Some people cheered his efforts and said it was the biggest incident that had happened in their area for a very long time. 

“Some of the children were saying, ‘bye, Mr. Snake,’” McGee said.

Contact a Shelter

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