August 08, 2013

Smoke 'Em Out Facts

  • In the State of Texas, the law indicates that anyone keeping more than 25 rattlesnakes for selling or trading purposes must purchase a nongame permit.

  • The first documented case of a death from serpent bite during a snake-handling service was August 5, 1919.

  • Pit vipers—which include copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths—are the most common type of venomous snake in Texas.

  • Pastor Jamie Coots was given one year probation in February 2013 for having crossed into Tennessee with venomous snakes, and he was previously arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home.

  • West Virginia is the only state that does not legislate against faith-based snake handling.

  • Upwards of 7,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year.

  • In 2000, Wyeth Ayerst Laboratories--then the only manufacturer of a product that neutralized the venom of North American rattlesnakes and copperheads--reported a shortage of its anti-venom drug, Antivenin (Crotalidae) Polyvalent, which later ran out and was discontinued in 2001. The anti-venom was originally made from the antibodies created in the blood of horses that had been exposed to venom.

  • Most snake bites happen around the ankle, and significantly can be avoided by wearing leather boots, as the fangs of venomous snakes are easily broken.

  • The 1947 Tennessee law banning serpent-handling was prompted by the deaths of five people bitten at churches over a period of two years.

  • In 1940, prompted by the complaint of Harlan County resident John Day, whose wife had been taking up serpents at a Pineville, Kentucky, church, the first anti-serpent-handling law was passed.

  • Texas is one of 20 states that host Repticon reptile trade shows, like the one Pastor Coots and Pastor Hamblin attended.

  • Southern states, like Texas, report some of the highest numbers of venomous snake bites.

  • In the United States, pit viper bites account for 97% of all venomous snakebites.

  • About 20% of the world's 3000+ snakes are venomous.

  • The current anti-venom treatment for bites from copperheads and eastern diamondback rattlesnakes is CroFab, which is made using antibodies of sheep immunized with pit viper venom.

  • Legend has it that John B. Stetson created the prototype for his popular model of cowboy hat on a rainy gold-mining trip to Colorado, in an attempt to create a waterproof hat from fur and felt. Stetson's factory is currently located in Garland, Texas.

  • Members of snake-handling churches, in addition to taking up serpents, also sometimes handle fire and ingest strychnine as a testimony of faith.

  • The respective lifespans of western diamondback rattlesnakes, canebrake rattlesnakes, and copperheads are 15-20 years, 10-15 years, and 1-7 years.

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