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California man learns tough lesson after trying to pick up rattlesnake with barbecue tongs

rattlesnake (Zack/Flickr)

A California man’s heart was in the right place when he tried to pick up a rattlesnake with a set of barbecue tongs. But he should have given his brain more prominence in the decision.

The man, who identified himself only as Steve to NBC Los Angeles, is going to be OK after he was bit on his left thumb by the snake in what he describes as an “idiotic” move.

A news release from Riverside County Animal Services says an officer was called to a neighborhood after the man was bitten. The release says the man was concerned about children in the area and tried to catch the rattlesnake himself.

Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said using cooking utensils when dealing with dangerous reptiles is not advisable.

“A coiled rattlesnake can strike the length of its body and the bites are painful and, in some rare cases, fatal,” Mayer said.

Steve tells NBC Los Angeles he was part of a team in the military that cleared rattlesnakes, so he was confident he could handle the situation. He tried to catch the snake with a set of tongs about 14 inches long.

“When I reached the tongs in to move the bushes, [it] struck and got me,” Steve tells NBC Los Angeles. “The first thought in my head was, ‘idiot,’ because I know better.” He said the bite was “extremely painful” and that morphine did nothing to relieve it. He said a dose of antivenin prevented him from becoming extremely ill.

The wildlife officer used a tool about 5 feet long to catch the snake and put it in a bucket. The snake was later euthanized.

“We try to release rattlesnakes within one mile of where we remove it from, but it was highly likely this snake might end up in one of the adjacent homes again,” said Mike McGee, the wildlife officer who caught the snake. “I didn’t believe a routine release would be safe this time.”

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