HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A 12-year-old child suffered a bite from a juvenile copperhead snake Sunday, May 19, shortly before 9 p.m. The incident occurred in the Macedonia area, east of Hiawassee. FYN learned that the child was struck on the hand by the snake, and air-lifted to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta for emergency treatment. Towns County Emergency Medical Services and Towns County Fire and Rescue responded to the incident.
Copperheads are pit vipers, like rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Pit vipers have “heat-sensory pits between eye and nostril on each side of head,” which are able to detect minute differences in temperatures so that the snakes can accurately strike the source of heat, which is often potential prey. “Copperhead behavior is very much like that of most other pit vipers,” said herpetologist Jeff Beane, collections manager of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
Copperheads bite more people in most years than any other U.S. species of snake, according to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service. Fortunately, copperhead venom is not extremely potent. Unlike most venomous snakes, copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened. Copperheads have hemotoxic venom, said Beane, which means that a copperhead bite “often results in temporary tissue damage in the immediate area of bite.” Their bite may be painful but is “very rarely fatal to humans.” Children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems may have strong reactions to the venom, however, and anyone bitten by a copperhead should seek medical attention.