Snake hunter has close call with rattler

Ted Clamp

It wasn't the first time snake hunter Ted Clamp had been bitten.

It was, however, his first strike by an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and his first time getting a dose of an improved antivenin that he helps produce.

Brothers Ted and Heyward Clamp are co-owners of Edisto Island Serpentarium. Ted Clamp took a hit from a four-footer Sunday afternoon while hunting the venomous snakes along the Georgia coast.

The brothers were having a good day and had bagged seven of the rattlers by about noon. As Ted Clamp tried to place one of them in his bag, the snake was hung up on a fold in the bag, turned his head and struck Clamp in the left hand.

"At first, we didn't know if he had gotten a severe bite or even any venom at all," Heyward Clamp said. "Sometimes it's a dry bite."

They went on to bag a six-foot rattler. Then Ted Clamp started to feel the effects of the bite. He had trouble breathing, his arm swelled from the poison and his legs felt numb, his brother said.

They drove to a Beaufort hospital, where Ted Clamp was recovering Monday and not available for comment. His brother said he was responding well to antivenin and that his condition was not life-threatening. Doctors planned to release him today.

The Clamps hunt rattlesnakes and take them to their serpentarium, where they collect venom and sell it for about $20 to a laboratory that makes the antivenin.

Heyward Clamp said his brother now has a new experience to impart to visitors at the serpentarium. He's been bitten by a water moccasin and by a canebrake rattlesnake, but this was his first bite from an Eastern diamondback rattler.

It's also his first time receiving antivenin made from sheep's blood, Heyward Clamp said. He said laboratories stopped making the snake serum from horse's blood about 10 years ago because many people, including Ted Clamp, have an allergic reaction to it.

Victims tend to react less frequently to the serum when it's made from sheep's blood. Ted Clamp had no allergic reaction this time.