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Hiker recovering from copperhead snake bite

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 07 2014 05:04:08 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 07 2014 06:03:18 PM CDT

It's an outdoor paradise, but a hiker at Lehigh Gorge State Park in Carbon County is recovering after a rare, poisonous snake bite.

JIM THORPE, Pa. -

It's an outdoor paradise, but a hiker at Lehigh Gorge State Park in Carbon County is recovering after a rare, poisonous snake bite.

If you're bitten, some doctors warn you to stay away from a common remedy.

The bite happened Saturday night near the top of Glen Onoko Falls.

The victim, a woman from Chester County, was bitten by a poisonous copperhead, according to Jim Thorpe Deputy Fire Chief Bill Diehm.

Bicyclists enjoying the trails were surprised to hear the news.

"Fortunately, we haven't had to avoid one or meet them," said Blake Farrow, visiting from Toronto.

Diehm said snake bites are rare around the gorge, but snakes are not. He said copperheads and rattlesnakes are especially common along the bike trail.

"There's a lot of snakes in the Glen," he said.

"It's the wilderness after all, so you never really know what could be up here," said Sean O'Donnell from Jim Thorpe.

If you're bitten, doctors say the most important thing is to stay calm.

"The more worked up they get, the faster their heart's going to beat, the more the venom will go from where the snake bit the patient and be brought back into their core, which is where it can make them sicker," said Dr. Bryan Kane, an expert on snake bites at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

Bicyclist Michelle McGovern of Quakertown once had her own close call with a snake at the gorge.

"The best thing you do is keep still, because, I mean, your blood circulates and you're circulating the poison," he said.

Dr. Kane also urged hikers to stay away from those popular snake bite kits, although some doctors nationally have mixed opinions about them.

"Any of those kits will cause more tissue damage and actually can spread the venom more," said Kane.

Kane suggested attempting to splint the bite area, or apply a constriction band between the bite and the heart. That keeps the venom isolated, he said.

With snake bites, a big enemy is time. Victims need to be treated quickly, and in this case, it took rescuers almost an hour just to locate this woman.

Rescuers said many victims don't know exactly where they are.

"DCNR [Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources] is trying to help us out on that point to try to mark the trail at different locations so that, if you got lost or in trouble up there, there would be a marker," said Diehm.

The falls may be tempting, but watch for snakes hiding around the bend.