‘Don’t mess with snakes,’ says wife of man fatally bitten while grabbing rattler
An Oklahoma man died Sunday after being bitten twice by a rattlesnake while moving it from a roadway.
Barry Lester picked up the snake while he and his wife were traveling on back roads toward Keystone Lake where they planned to spend Lester’s 57th birthday walking and enjoying the outdoors.
Lester’s wife, Roberta Lester, told the Tulsa World that he had picked up many snakes over the years without getting bit. But on this occasion, the young adult timber rattlesnake he picked up managed to turn and bite Lester’s left hand. His wife said he then moved the snake to his right hand and it bit him there too.
Lester placed the snake in a toolbox in the bed of his truck and told his wife they needed to get to a hospital. They planned to meet an ambulance at their home in Turley but Roberta Lester said it was too late to save her husband.
“He was talking and his head dropped, and I think that was it,” the widow told the World.
Medical personnel in the ambulance and at St. John Medical Center unsuccessfully tried to revive Lester. His wife said doctors attributed the death to a combination of the venom and an underlying heart condition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people bitten by venomous snakes each year in the U.S. On average, about five of the bites are fatal.
A game warden from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was called to remove the snake, which was still in the toolbox in the back of the truck that sat in the hospital parking garage.
“My message is you don’t mess with snakes,” Roberta Lester told the World. “If you hear it rattling, you leave it alone.”
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