A Chinese palm viper apparently bit the hand that was keeping him, killing an elderly Virginia man who for some reason was keeping venomous snakes as pets in his home.
The 70-year-old man, Jack Redmond, was found dead with bite marks on a finger, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, but the snake that bit him was just one of 24 venomous snakes, including copperheads and rattlesnakes, Redmond had at his house.
Ironically, experts said the Chinese palm viper is usually not typically deadly. However, Redmond was battling prostate cancer, and his age and health may have rushed the venom through his system faster, said state game and fisheries official J. D. Kleopfer.
"It's not simply a black-and-white issue, whether you're going to live or you're going to die if you're bit by the snake. A person's age and their health — those are other factors that kind of come into play, along with the location of the bite."
Dr. Ruddy Rose, who is director of the Virginia Poison Center, said Redmond might have survived if he'd seen a doctor right away, but police don't know how long time passed between when Redmond was bitten and his wife called for help.
Chesterfield, where Redmond lived, has an ordinance that bans owning venomous snakes and wild, exotic animals. But the dead man considered himself an amateur naturalist. He may have even felt safe, because snakebite deaths are rare in the United States. Rose said he could only recall two people killed by snakes in the past 40 years in the state.
"It's unusual to die from a snakebite in this part of the world. There are deaths that occur in Asia and South America and Africa, but it's very unusual in North America, if you get medical treatment."