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August 11, 2021

New Jersey hiker, 21, hospitalized after bitten by venomous copperhead snake

The species of pit viper is native to the Northeastern U.S.; this encounter happened in Mercer County

A 21-year-old New Jersey man had a frightening brush with nature earlier this month when he was bitten by a venomous copperhead snake at a park in Mercer County.

Kevin Murray, of Pennington, was walking along a trail in Hopewell Township last Thursday when he said he felt a sharp sting on his ankle and fell to the ground. When he looked around him, he noticed a snake on the ground.

"I don't know much about snakes," Murray said in an interview with 6ABC. "I just assumed it would be a garden snake or something that wasn't much of a problem."

To be safe, Murray took a photo of the snake and rushed to the emergency room at Capital Health in Pennington.

A herpetologist who reviewed the photo Murray took confirmed that the snake was a venomous copperhead.

Copperheads have heart-shaped heads and hourglass markings in a red, orange and brown color pattern. They're a common form of pit viper seen in the Northeastern U.S. and other parts of the country, but they often resemble other nonvenomous snakes. Copperhead bites are among the most commonly reported types of snake bites in the United States.

Copperhead venom can be extremely painful, but it's rarely fatal for humans. Their venom is hemotoxic, which means it typically causes temporary tissue damage in the immediate area of the bite. The snakes usually give little to no warning when they bite, unlike most other venomous snakes.

Though their venom is rarely fatal to humans, there is a risk that the it can spread to organs such as the heart and cause serious complications.

Murray was fortunate not to require anti-venom treatment, which can sometimes cause longer-term side effects, but he spent three days in the hospital before he was released.

The incident in New Jersey comes weeks after a 17-year-old girl was bitten by a copperhead snake at High Rocks Park in Tinicum Township, Bucks County. The teen required anti-venom treatment, but made a recovery at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Snake bites are more common during the summer months when people out in nature and may be perceived as a threat. The CDC urges anyone who been bitten by a venomous snake to keep the bite below the level of the heart, wash the wound with warm, soapy water, and seek immediate medical attention.