Students and faculty at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise are keeping a closer eye on where they venture around campus after reports surfaced of a college employee being bitten by a copperhead snake earlier this month while on college grounds.
UVa-Wise Director of News and Media Relations Kathy Still issued a statement to the Highland Cavalier that she had received information of a possible snakebite incident on campus September 5. She was unable to release any other information regarding the incident due to federal privacy laws.
The Highland Cavalier reached out to the employee bitten by the snake, who agreed to speak with the newspaper on condition of anonymity. Contrary to initial reports and rumors that suggested the incident occurred near Zehmer Hall, the employee said that they believed they were bitten somewhere around the pond next to McCraray Hall.
“I like to get out and walk around campus to get a little exercise,” the employee said. “I went around the track by the baseball field, I went around behind the gym, back down and around the campus in a circle and then down by the lake, and I’m thinking it happened down around the lake. But see, I never felt the snake hit me. It hit me at a side glance because only one fang went in and the other barely broke the skin, so it hit me as I walked by.”
The employee said that they didn’t notice the bite until the next morning when they saw the bite mark as they were putting on their socks. They then went to get medically checked out where it was determined that the bite was considered a “dry bite” where little to no venom was released by the snake. According to the Virginia Poison Center, roughly 25 percent of snakebites from venomous snakes are considered dry bites.
The employee said that they believe the snake was simply startled by their presence and struck out defensively.
“This time of year the snakes are shedding their skin, and it gets over their eyes, and they’ll strike at about anything that moves,” the employee said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people bitten by venomous snakes per year in the United States, including bites from rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and coral snakes, as well as copperheads. Of that number, there are only about five deaths per year, as most snakebite victims are able to make full recoveries after receiving medical treatment. In Virginia, there have been fewer than 15 deaths from venomous snakebites over the past 30 years according to the Virginia Poison Center.
The employee said that in their experience, which spans over 25 years, there have always been copperheads around campus. Still said that, in the event any students or faculty see a snake on campus, they should contact Campus Police for assistance in removing it. She also added that people traveling around campus should make sure they are aware of their surroundings in order to avoid situations like this.
“In any area, a big city or a rural area like this, everyone needs to be aware of the possibility of seeing a snake anywhere,” she said.