On Thursday, an unfortunate incident occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo when a venomous eastern diamondback rattlesnake bit a female staff member. The local Cincinnati Fire Department reported being alerted to the incident at the Ohio-based zoo where the woman encountered the snake in the reptile section of the Otto M. Budig Manatee Springs building.
As per the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is North America’s lengthiest and biggest venomous snake. They can typically measure from 3 feet to as much as 6 feet, although some can grow as long as 8 feet. Recognized for its distinct rattle and potent bite, the rattlesnake’s venom can potentially be lethal to humans.
The affected employee was promptly transported to the University of Cincinnati Hospital and is currently reported to be in stable condition. The specifics of where she was at the time of the bite remain undisclosed by authorities.
The U.S. has roughly 30 venomous snake species, including 23 rattlesnakes, three coral snakes, two cottonmouths, and two copperheads. While venomous snakes are found in nearly every state, Hawaii, Maine, Rhode Island, and Alaska are exceptions. Timber Rattlesnakes once inhabited Rhode Island and parts of southern Maine but have since been eradicated from these regions.
Each year in the U.S., it’s estimated that venomous snakes bite between 7,000 and 8,000 people, with about five of these bites proving fatal. Although rattlesnakes cause the deadliest bites, copperheads are responsible for most bite incidents among North American venomous snakes. In contrast, a bite from a rattlesnake is about four times more likely to lead to death or severe complications than one from a copperhead.
The presence of venomous snakes varies across the United States, with a higher concentration in warmer climates. States such as Florida and Texas are known for their diverse and large venomous snake populations. Conversely, states near the Canada-US border see far fewer venomous snake bites.
Take Maine as an example: while it’s believed to host just one species, the timber rattlesnake, sightings are rare, primarily in the southern regions. There hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of this species in Maine since 1901, suggesting it might no longer be present.