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Buffalo National River Rangers Resort To Canoe To Rescue Snakebite Victim


It's not often you hear about rangers resorting to a canoe to rescue visitors in need, but that's what happened the other day at Buffalo National River in Arkansas when word came of a snakebite victim in dire need of medical attention.

According to Chief Ranger Karen Bradford, park officials were contacted shortly before midnight last Friday by the Searcy County Sheriff’s Office concerning a cellphone call "from a member of a group on the river who reported that one of their party had been bitten by a snake and was in severe distress."

When rangers contacted the party by phone, they were told that the man who had been bitten was "suffering from bad trembling, nausea, significant swelling of his entire foot and lower leg, complete inability to bear weight, and pain that was a 15 on a 10 scale.” 

Rather than opting to wait seven hours or so until daylight and a rescue, three rangers "launched canoes and paddled by headlamp under a moonless sky two miles to the victim’s campsite."

"Ranger/Paramedic Matt Graden and District Ranger/Parkmedic Kevin Moses stabilized the man, loaded him into a canoe in the most comfortable position they were able to fashion, and continued paddling downstream another seven river miles (during which time they floated within two feet of a swimming copperhead) to the next available takeout, where they transferred the man to a waiting ambulance at 4:30 a.m.," the chief ranger reported.

"The man reported that he’d been unable to identify the species of snake, but odds are good that it was either a cottonmouth or copperhead, both of which are common on the Buffalo," Chief Bradford noted, adding that "(A)lcohol may have been a factor, as the patient reported having consumed 'about 12 beers, several tequila shots, a rum/vodka mixture, and some whiskey' prior to receiving the bite."


Nice job by the rangers on a tricky dark-of-night canoe trip on this river. Given the description of the victim's beverage intake, the surprise isn't that he couldn't identify the type of snake involved, but rather that he even realized that a snake was the cause of his problem :-)

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