In Depth

Texas man bitten by severed snake head

Milo Sutcliffe almost died after bite from decapitated rattlesnake

A Texas man needed 26 doses of antivenom after being bitten by the severed head of a rattlesnake.

Milo Sutcliffe and his wife, Jennifer, were working in the garden of their home near Corpus Christi, in the south-east of the state when they spotted a 4ft.-long rattlesnake.

He approached the snake, whose bite can be deadly if left untreated, and struck it with a garden spade, decapitating it.

However, “moments later when he bent down to dispose of the snake, the snake's head bit him”, says local news channel KIII-TV.

As Jennifer started driving her husband to the nearest hospital, “he began having seizures, losing his vision and bleeding internally”, says Houston news network KPRC-2.

Milo had to be airlifted to the hospital by emergency helicopter. “Once there, doctors administered massive amounts of the antivenom CroFab,” CBS reports.

“A normal person who is going to get bit is going to get two to four doses of antivenom," Jennifer told KIII-TV. “He had to have 26 doses.”

A week on from the attack, Milo is on the road to recovery but “still showing signs of weakened kidney function” from the effects of the venom.

The episode serves as a “cautionary tale”, says CBS. Snakes can remain alive for as long as an hour after they appear to be dead, and retain some of their reflexes even after decapitation.

Rather than attempt to dispose of a seemingly dead snake oneself, “experts advise that it's far better to retreat indoors and call more experienced handlers from animal-control, the local police or the fire department.”

Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten by snakes in the US every year, but the widespread availability of effective anti-venom treatement means that only around five bites are fatal.

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