NOCATEE, Fla. – After an 8-year-old boy was bitten by a rattlesnake in his Nocatee backyard over the weekend, his parents are warning other families about the venomous snakes.
Connor Mease was recovering at home on Wednesday after he was bitten on the leg Saturday evening and was in the hospital for nearly three days receiving antivenom.
There are two things that helped saved his life: Connor remembering what the snake looked like so he could describe it to doctors and his parents knowing where the closest emergency room was located.
"Basically, I was just walking. I was standing by a tree and then, like, I never saw the rattlesnake but, like, it just came up and bit me," Connor told News4Jax.
Connor's father, Jeff Mease, said they've seen snakes outside their home before. Even though he never expected one to bite his son, he was somewhat mentally prepared.
"It was extremely scary. Any parent would be scared. All the worst possible scenarios are going through your mind," Jeff said. "I knew to get to the hospital as quickly as possible because I knew the antivenom was the solution."
That’s what Connor got. He was given antivenom at Baptist South before being taken to Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, where he spent the next couple of days receiving five total rounds.
"Whenever I got to the hospital, it really hurt, like, super bad," Connor said.
As Connor recovered at home, he was taking it easy on his left leg. His father credits the antivenom and encourages parents to know which emergency room is closest to home.
"Also, make a phone call on the way and let them know you’re coming," Jeff said. "You’re racing against the clock. You need to get there as fast as possible."
The Mease family isn't the only Nocatee family that's had recent encounters with rattlesnakes. Various people sent News4Jax photos of snakes spotted in recent weeks in Nocatee, including a 6-foot diamondback rattlesnake.
In a video recorded by Ana Reyes, the snake is not visible, but its rattle can be heard.
Nocatee is a fast-growing community. When trees and wooded areas are knocked down to build houses, wild animals, including snakes, don't know where to go.
The Meases said they’re wearing closed-toe shoes in the yard from now on -- no more going barefoot or wearing flip-flops. They said one brush with a rattlesnake is one too many.
SLIDESHOW: How to spot venomous snakes in Florida
Other than wearing closed-toe shoes while walking in the yard, American Trappers, a local trapping and pest control company, suggests cutting shrubbery so you can see underneath.
American Trappers said to feel free to try things, such as mothballs and sprays, but said trappers have also caught snakes at places that have those.
If you see one, don't mess with it. Call wildlife officials or a professional.