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Venomous Snakes in South Florida Neighborhoods

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Florida recently toughened the rules for keeping venomous reptiles at a home.

    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017)

    Nick Bishop likes to go by his nickname, the Wrangler. He’s an aspiring TV wildlife host.

    The videos of his escapades capturing venomous snakes could bring two thoughts to cross your mind.

    You wonder if he has a death wish and you may not want him as a neighbor if he keeps the snakes he loves at home.

    Bishop has kept a venomous snake in his Hallandale Beach condo.

    “There was a pink rattlesnake, blue eyes, white background,” he said. “It was gorgeous.”

    After getting a tip, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission inspected his home and confiscated the rattlesnake. He now faces a misdemeanor charge for having the illegal snake without having a license for it.

    “I totally understand,” Bishop said. “I mean if I lived next door, I wouldn’t want a rattlesnake living in my neighbor’s apartment.”

    To reduce the risk of venomous snakes in neighborhoods, Florida’s FWC recently changed the rules to make it tougher to keep a venomous reptile.

    The new rule changes include requirements for enclosures holding venomous reptiles. The changes impact the container the reptile is held in as well as the room that holds that container. There are also new regulations on handling reptiles outside the enclosures.

    There are more than 1100 license holders in Florida listed between 2014 and 2016. The new rules add steps for people seeking to be licensed to have a venomous reptile.

    Florida’s Poison Control Centers keeps track of snake bites reported in Florida. Over 900 people have reported snake bites in the last three years. That’s almost a bite per day. Two people died in 2014 from snake bites. 70 percent of those who report bites are men.

    Snake Species

    2014

    2015

    2016

    Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin

    69

    70

    67

    Coral Snake

    51

    41

    37

    Copperhead

    10

    17

    10

    Pygmy Rattlesnake

    97

    111

    107

    Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

    7

    7

    8

    Canebrake/Timber Rattlesnake

    2

    2

    1

    Unknown Rattlesnake

    32

    31

    25

    Unknown Viper

    53

    38

    45

    Total Snakebite Calls in Florida

    321

    317

    300

    When a snake gets loose or bites someone, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lieutenant Scott Mullin is likely to get the call.

    Mullin’s Venom One unit is the only government-run, 24-hour, seven day a week antivenin operation in the United States.

    He knows the excruciating symptoms that a snake bite victim suffers.

    “They say it’s like that part of their body being put over a hot grill with someone taking a railroad spike and a hammer and just hitting it with every heartbeat,” Mullin described about a rattlesnake bite.

    Coral Snakes kill with a neurotoxin.

    “Once you can’t expand your lungs you can’t breathe and when you can’t breathe you got about six minutes before you die,” Mullin said.

    Sometimes he says the victims are bitten while keeping snakes illegally.

    “In one case it was a cobra bite and the gentleman didn’t want to volunteer to help us because he didn’t want to face prosecution,” Mullin said.

    Police had to get a warrant to enter his house in order to identify the species and use the correct antivenin to help save him.

    A more regular call for Mullin is to recover the popular Burmese Python.

    “It’s illegal to have one of these as a pet,” he said

    Back at Nick the Wrangler’s house, he says only legal reptiles and mammals are there now including two snakes, a turtle, a monitor lizard, a monkey and a dog.

    “Yeah I keep it simple,” Bishop said. “I don’t tangle with FWC anymore.”

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