To The Editor:
Your paper, dated July 16, 2014, ran an article on Page 4B concerning a death from copperhead bite. The article contained a major and misleading misprint. It stated that the venom of the cottonmouth is the least toxic of Missouri’s venomous snakes. Actually, it is the most toxic venom. The copperhead is the least toxic, although it belongs to the same genus (agkistrodon).
I have been raising, studying, and lecturing on snakes and other reptiles for 60 years. I have had cottonmouths, cobras and numerous species of vipers and rattlesnakes in my collection.
I have never been bitten by a venomous snake. Although I did accidently stick myself on the fang of a copperhead while lecturing to the biology classes at Lutheran High South in St. Louis, which I did for 18 years.
Because of the unnecessary fear that most people have of snakes, misinformation is worse than no information. More people read and remember these unusual articles, and they don’t stop to think about the many human deaths ad injuries from dogs, horses and other “domestic” animals. As for my own copperhead “envenomation,” the snake did not inject venom, but the amount on the fang tip caused about the same pain and swelling you would get from slamming your finger in a car door.
Editors’s Note: The story was from the Associated Press.