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Kentucky Reptile Zoo Director Survives 9th Venomous Snake Bite in 38 Years

Jim Harrison, director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo has survived a bite from an 8-year-old South American rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) and is back t

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Jim Harrison, director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo has survived a bite from an 8-year-old South American rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus) and is back to work just 72 hours after being bit. Harrison, who milks venomous snakes for science was in the process of placing the snake in a plastic tube to extract venom from the snake when the plastic tube broke and the snake got its head out and bit Harrison on the wrist. Immediately, staff at the zoo took the anti-venom for that particular snake and Harrison to Clark Regional Medical Center where doctors went to work, administering the anti venom through an I.V. 


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According to Lex 18 News, Harrison was in respiratory arrest, unconscious and was showing signs of paralysis when he  arrived at the hospital. But the quick actions from the doctors, who Harrison helped train in administering anti venom, helped to save him. 

This is Harrison’s 9th envenomation in 38 years of extracting venom from snakes. He says that he has performed 600 to 1000 venom extractions a week during the nearly four decades extracting venom from snakes.

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There are 9 subspecies of South African rattlesnake. Crotalus durissus grows to about 5 feet in length and is found throughout South America except the Andes Mountains. This snake’s venom is especially debilitating. It has neurotoxins that cause respiratory paralysis and damage to skeletal muscles and possibly the heart. 


John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata