After man dies from snakebite, reptile expert trying to remove stigma of snakes


Tanner Stainbrook holds a corn snake, which is common in Alabama, and uses it to teach others about overcoming snake phobias.

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NEW HOPE, Ala.- After a man from Alabama died this week after he was bitten by a snake, a reptile expert has some advice to help keep your yard free of snakes.

"There is a fear. We try to teach people that there is a way to coexist," Tanner Stainbrook said.

Stainbrook and his wife spend their time trying to remove the stigma of serpents. He raises and keeps some of the same reptiles you'll find around Alabama. Stainbrook's goal is education, but with the Alabama outdoors, the threat of venomous snakes is real. Last week, a man named Oliver Baker was bitten by a copperhead while visiting family at Smith Lake in Walker County.

"There are about three thousand bites a year from copperheads, less than 1 percent of those have been fatal," Stainbrook said.

Copperhead venom is hemotoxic, meaning it attacks red blood cells in the body, destroys tissue and if untreated, it can cause organ failure. Snake experts say very seldom is a copperhead bite strong enough to kill a person. Unfortunately, Baker was one of the few. He was flown to Huntsville Hospital where he passed away this week.

"Unfortunately, there's not a great way to predict how a toxin is going to react in every person," Stainbrook said.

Stainbrook says snakes are more active during warm weather and if you don't want them paying you a visit, roll up your sleeves.

"Keep your yard mowed. Don't keep brush piles. Don't keep trash around. And another one when it's hot like this, don't leave standing water," Stainbrook said.

Standing water is an enticing place for a snake to get a drink. But if you see one in your yard, Stainbrook says go inside and wait a half hour, and odds are good, the snake will move on.

On Wednesday afternoon, WHNT News 19 talked with Don Webster from HEMSI, who says Baker was severely allergic to the venom and suffered anaphylactic shock, at which point, doctors couldn't save him.

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