Man tries to catch 'python', lands in hospital with venomous bite

Experts say the snake may have been a Russell’s Viper, one of the four deadliest snakes in India

Handling or catching snakes is a job best left to experts. A Mulund-based driver learnt this the hard way on Friday, when he attempted to catch what he thought was a non-venomous python, and landed in hospital when he was bitten by the serpent, which actually was venomous. Experts say the snake may have been a Russell’s Viper, one of the four deadliest snakes in India.

Experts say Prakash Mahale was probably bitten by a Russell’s Viper
Experts say Prakash Mahale was probably bitten by a Russell’s Viper

On Friday, residents of Swapna Nagri society in Mulund noticed the snake and were trying to call a snake catcher when, Prakash Mahale, who works for a resident of the society, tried to catch hold of it with his bare hands and got bitten. They then called the Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW) helpline, requesting immediate help.

Mahale was rushed to a private hospital first, but since government hospitals are preferred in snakebite cases because the state provides the anti-venom, it was suggested that he be shifted to a civil hospital for better treatment. He was then rushed to a civil hospital at Mulund, which did not have anti-venom and he had to be shifted again, to the Thane Civil hospital.

Vivek Satiha, a RAWW member who rushed to the spot, said, “After reaching the spot, we saw that a man had been bitten by a snake while attempting to catch it. The residents and security staff said that the snake looked like a python. It disappeared into the drainage system.”

“The victim had fainted immediately after being bitten and had been revived by the time we got there. After looking at the bite and his reaction and behaviour, we could make out that it was not a non-venomous bite by a python and felt that the snake could be a Russel’s Viper,” added Sayyaim Dharamshi, another rescuer from RAWW.

Speaking to mid-day, Savita Mahale, Prakash’s wife, and a nurse at a private hospital, said, “He was shifted from one hospital because there was no anti-venom there. Then he was injected with 36 vials but the swelling in his hand remained the same. I have no idea whether the venom has been completely neutralised. The doctor discharged him on Sunday but asked us to visit an orthopaedic doctor if the swelling stays for more than two days.”

Pawan Sharma, founder of RAWW said, “People often mistakenly identify a viper as a python. Snakes are the most misunderstood of all wildlife and the human-wildlife conflict takes place the most between humans and reptiles, especially snakes.”

'Leave it to experts'
Kaushalendra Dubey, a professional snake rescuer and volunteer for Spreading Awareness on Reptiles and Rehabilitation Program (SARRP) explained, “Identification of a snake is very important before one deals with it. Rescuers are trained and experienced to do that. The body structures of a python and a Russell’s Viper are similar, so people get confused.”

Necessary precautions
Dos and don’ts when dealing with snakes, according to the Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare:
>> Use a torch while venturing out at night and in dark places when trekking
>> Shoes are a must while trekking in forests
>> One shouldn’t provoke the reptile. This will instigate it to attack in self-defence
>> Trim the grass in your compound to prevent snakes taking refuge in your backyard

What to do after a snakebite
>> The victim’s activity should be reduced
>> The victim should not be given food or water until he/ she is stable
>> Cutting or trying to suck venom out from the bitten area will complicate matters for the victim. So, don’t do it
>> Rings, belts or any other object that has been worn tightly around the body must be loosened or removed immediately
>> Rush the victim to the nearest civil hospital, and confirm with authorities whether anti-snake venom (ASV) is available. If not, arrangements must be made to procure it
>> Victim’s behaviour should be monitored whether he/ she is fainting, feeling giddy etc and be told to the doctor

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