7-year-old girl recovering after rattlesnake bite

AURORA, Colo. - A 7-year-old from rural Nebraska is recovering at Children's Hospital from a snake bite.

Britney Klein was bit in the calf Tuesday by a rattlesnake while picking flowers with her aunt in Harrison, Neb.

The town has a population of about 200 and is 65 miles from the nearest hospital in Scottsbluff.

She was flown from Harrison to Scottsbluff and given anti-venom in the helicopter. She was then flown Tuesday night from Scottsbluff to Children's Hospital Colorado to provide specialized care.

"The doctors in Scottsbluff weren't totally comfortable with the snake bite; they didn't have a lot of experience with it, so they decided, just precautionary, to fly her up here," said Britney's dad Chris Klein.

"It made me cry," said Britney. "It was scary."

Britney said she never saw how long the snake was because she only saw it coiled up just as it bit her. She has two side-by-side marks on her leg.

While Britney and her mom were being flown from Harrison to Scottsbluff, Chris had to drive the 65 miles.

"Probably three-quarters of that is no cell phone service, so it was probably the worst drive of my life," said Chris. "Hoping for the best, but you expect the worst. It was a terrifying drive."

Britney was feeling better just about 24 hours after the bite. She was hugging the unusual stuffed animal her dad bought from the hospital gift shop.

"I just kind of thought it was funny. I brought it up to her and her eyes lit up, and she's like, 'Yes, I want a snake,'" said Chris.

Britney named the stuffed snake "Spike."

Quick Facts:

  • Most Colorado snakes are nonvenomous (nonpoisonous), harmless and beneficial to people.
  • Nonvenomous and venomous species can be easily distinguished from each other.
  • Discourage snakes from entering buildings by sealing all holes in foundations. Reduce cover and food supplies to discourage them from living in backyards.
  • Quickly seek medical attention for venomous snakebite victims. The most useful snakebite first aid kit is car keys and coins for calling the hospital.

Of the 25 species of snakes in Colorado, the western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and the massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) are the only venomous species. The western rattlesnake appears in most habitats throughout the state. The massasauga, however, is limited to the southeastern grasslands.

There are six basic ways to distinguish these two venomous snakes from their nonvenomous relatives:

  • Rattles at the end of the tail.
  • Fangs in addition to their rows of teeth.
  • Facial pits between the nostrils and eyes.
  • Vertical and elliptical pupils that may look like thin lines in bright light. (Nonvenomous snakes have round pupils.)
  • A single row of scales between the vent and the tip of the tail. (Nonvenomous snakes have two rows of scales.)
  • Broad triangular head and narrow neck.

Source: CSU Extension Service

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