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Closure

| 4 Comments

This was emailed to me -

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army says a Special Forces trainee found dead this summer during a land navigation exercise in North Carolina was bitten by a poisonous water moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth.

The military said Wednesday the autopsy of 20-year-old Pfc. Norman M. Murburg of Dade City, Fla., ruled out heat or dehydration as a cause of death. Murburg was bitten multiple times while training at the Hoffman training area, near Fort Bragg's Camp Mackall.

Well, it's good to have resolution; it was a Giant Meteor Impact - my phrase for an unavoidable event. The only protection is to be someplace else when one of those strikes.

4 Comments

Wow, that's a rare one. Really sucks, but pretty much nothing you can do. Readers who find themselves in southern swamps and water verges...

Very few snakes are poisonous. If given a choice, even a poisonous snake will leave rather than bite you. Common sense things exist to avoid problems with snakes, like not kicking logs in front of you, never rolling a log away from you (always toward, so a snake is never revealed and boxed in), avoiding splashing through the verge of water bodies, watching where you step, et. al.

Cottonmouths live in southern swamps and water verges, like the similar sized, nonpoisonous, but definitely ornery if picked up water snake family. They have no rattle, but if you're lucky they'll stand their ground, hiss, and open a very white mouth at you in warning. Hence the name. If you're not lucky, you have a mud-colored snake sitting in southern swamps, water verges, and other easy to hide areas, who will take umbrage if accidentally kicked, stepped on, badly startled, etc.

A hiker or naturalist is almost never in danger unless very careless - but Special Forces training makes people much more concerned about other things.

I'm sorry it turned out to be Biggest Guy's friend in the anti-lotto, in one of the few situations where help would not arrive in time.

Related story, less tragic...

So, we're at the Tucson Desert Museum (near Pima Air Museum, nice destination area), and the poisonous snake keepers are bringing out the rattlers - who are pit vipers like the cottonmouth, sporting the same heat sensor in their heads, and also using a hemotoxin.

There's a well-known profile for snakebite victims, it seems. Male, 18-35, with at least one tattoo. As an illustration of why, the keeper recounts a story from the local hospital. 4 guys bring their buddy in with a snakebite problem, then leave quickly.

Turns out, they left to catch the snake responsible.

Rattler strikes are fast enough (under 1/10 second) that unless you're positioned well (at extreme edge of range, moving mostly out of maximum) and know what you're doing, it's physically impossible for a human to dodge unless you're a really extraordinary specimen.

Naturally, the 4 friends return to the hospital soon after. Every one of them sporting rattlesnake bites.

They did not catch the snake (which was, of course, unnecessary anyway).

Wow, that's terrible. I'm sorry to hear about Biggest Guy's friend. Like Joe said, that's a rare one. Backpacker magazine covers a bunch of wilderness hazards this month, which is how I know this next bit. The nationwide average is about 7,000 venomous snake bites a year but only six fatal ones. Too bad the odds didn't work out this time, but I'm sure it's some small comfort to his family to at least know what happened.

Very few snakes are poisonous. If given a choice, even a poisonous snake will leave rather than bite you.

It was my experience growing up in the South that cottonmouths (water moccasins) are snakes with a bad attitude. They've been known to come into a boat to try to bite you. They can and will bite someone under water. Unlike a rattlesnake (I almost stepped on one once), a water moccasin is as likely to try to bite you as to leave. Many of the places where I went camping during my teen years were teaming with poisonous snakes. It was the water moccasins that concerned us the most.

When I was in high school near San Antonio, cottonmouths were a posted hazard on the local golf course - people were specifically warned to retrieve their ball in the rough using a club, rather than reaching for it, just in case the white thing they were reaching for wasn't actually a golf ball.

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