Venomous snake sightings spike this summer

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. - They slither, smell and sometimes strike.

Snake trapper Brandon Booth says the reptiles are keeping him swamped.

"I've seen a lot more this year than I have in the last 15 years, and it's just kind of odd to me," Booth said. "I can't explain it, but I've gotten probably 10 times more calls this year than I've had in any of the years past."

People living in Ocean Gallery and Sea Place condominiums, located right along St. Augustine Beach, say they're seeing a ton of pygmy rattlers.

About a month ago, a Sea Place resident walked out her front door and onto the sidewalk when she was bitten in the ankle.

"I've killed a couple here on this property over by the swimming pool and some down by the ocean front," Booth said. "The rattlesnakes seem to like the dunes. They eat the rats and stuff in there."

Snake trapper Jeff Altman said he's not seeing more snakes this year but they are out and about more in the summer months and around construction sites.

"They're knocking down the trees, the undergrowth, things like that," Altman said. "So it's creating more of an issue with these snakes and other animals that are moving."

Last month in Nassau County, a pygmy rattler bit 4-year-old Brayden Bullard. He went into anaphylactic shock and died a week later.

Venomous snakes have bitten four people in Putnam County so far this year -- a coral snake, a water moccasin and two rattlers.

One bit Clay Petruski, who survived with 52 vials of antivenin.

At Sea Place condos, the residents' main concern is small children seen retrieving balls in the bushes, for fear another snake will strike.

"If you're walking around, be aware of what's down there," Altman said. "Don't stick your hands down under bushes looking up under them. Use a stick or something if you need to look under it and lift it up where you can visually see what's going on, because the majority of bites that people get are to the hands and things like that where they're actually reaching for something, and that's when they get bit."

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