Man Finds Himself Surrounded by Deadly Snakes While Hiking in Arkansas

An Arkansas man who encountered multiple venomous snakes while hiking this week was left with cuts and bruises to his neck and hand after falling while fleeing from the deadly reptiles.

Stephen Gossow, of Alma, said he was exploring with his pet in an area of Ozark–St. Francis National Forest on Monday when he stopped for a rest and noticed there were multiple diamondback rattlesnakes close by.

"I instantly thought about every step I took. I couldn't tell how many were in that spot but they were BIG!" he said in a Facebook post.

Gossow said he had made the mistake of not informing anyone where he was going, and while he was carrying a snake bite kit it would only have bought time, not fully protected against their powerful venom.

He posted about the incident on his social media this week, sharing images of wounds sustained after tumbling down a steep incline.

He said: "I took... pictures and they all started to move. They were all big but the huge one started moving my direction. I knew we had to get out of there. I grabbed my pup and worked my way away from the rocks.

"As soon as I stepped around a tree by the rocks, I stepped right beside another rattlesnake. All I could do was lunge forward over the snake with Khal Drogo and down the steep incline we went! We rolled a little ways and got caught in some thick briars. Don't worry! My neck broke my fall."

The man's encounter was first reported by KFSM.

Gossow said he got back to his feet as quickly as possible and while he was unsure how many snakes were in the area, he became very aware that he was "in their home." He added his actions had been "reckless" and he was ultimately "lucky enough" to not have been bitten during the incident.

He wrote: "I want to warn everyone that [hikes] to understand the forest is full of beauty and dangers. I also want to warn that even though we were covered in snow two weeks ago, the snakes are coming out during these warm patches." He said his dog had a bloody nose, but survived.

Rebecca McPeake, a professor of Wildlife Extension at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, said in a study that the state is home to a variety of deadly venomous snakes, including the copperhead, cottonmouth, western diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, Texas coral snake and western pigmy rattlesnake.

With the exception of the Texas coral, all belong to a family known as pit vipers—which use retractable fangs to inject venom and kill prey.

She wrote: "The venom of pit vipers...destroys red blood cells, capillaries and tissue. Rattlesnake venom is the most severe of the pit vipers." Western Diamondback rattlesnakes are known to hibernate in groups.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
A Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. An Arkansas man who encountered multiple venomous snakes while on a hike with his dog this week was left with cuts and bruises to his neck and hand after falling while fleeing from the deadly reptiles. J. Irwin/Classicstock/Getty Images