Respected snake researcher dies from rattlesnake bite – Boston News, Weather, Sports

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A respected snake researcher who had made important discoveries about the species since childhood has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

William H. “Marty” Martin died Aug. 3 after being bitten the day before by a captive snake on the property of his home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, according to his wife, Renee Martin.

Martin, who was 80, continued strenuous mountain treks to document and count snake populations in remote sites, said Joe Villari, who manages the Bull Run Mountains Preserve in northern Virginia and would accompany Martin during his outings there.

“He was over 80 years old and he was hard to follow,” said Villari, who made it a point to join Martin on his biannual treks to remote mountain dens where the snakes would live.

John Sealy, a rattlesnake researcher from Stokesdale, North Carolina, who has known Martin for more than 30 years, said Martin was perhaps the leading authority on timber rattlesnakes, a species he had been studying since his childhood.

As a boy, Martin found a population of timber rattlesnakes in the Bull Run Mountains that was previously unknown and convinced a herpetologist to come out and verify the find.

Sealy said Martin is known throughout the snake expert community for his field work and research, and his ability to find and document a species that makes itself difficult to find.

“They are extremely secretive animals,” he said.

Snakebite deaths are extremely rare; the Centers for Disease Control estimates that they represent about five deaths per year in the United States

Dan Keyler, a University of Minnesota toxicology professor and snakebite expert, said a second snakebite can be more dangerous than a first for some people and that rattlesnakes can be more dangerous s they grow to a size that allows them to inject more venom. . Age can also be a factor in a person’s susceptibility.

Martin had been bitten before in his career, but had recovered.

Villari said timber rattlesnakes tend to be docile, avoid human contact, and often won’t bite even if accidentally stepped on.

“They save their venom for their prey,” he said.

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