Copperhead Snake Bite Felt Worse Than Being Hit by Car, Victim Says

A hiker in Texas was bitten by a copperhead describing it as one of the most painful experiences of his life.

Jay Middleton, a resident of Denver, was hiking in Austin with his wife when he was bitten by the snake, Kxan reported.

"Easily one of the most painful things I've ever experienced in my life. I've been hit by a car on my bike. I've broken numerous bones... I thought I knew pain until I got bit by this snake," he told the Austin Television News Station. "My entire foot looked like a giant sausage like I couldn't even get a finger between my toes. They were so, so swollen."

Middleton said that he was hiking with his wife when he felt what he initially believed was a sting from an insect. It was only when his wife spotted the snake, which they identified as a copperhead, that he realized that was what bit him.

First responders reached Middleton on the Austin trail and he was taken to St. David's Round Rock Medical Center to be treated. Middleton spent weeks on crutches after the bite which occurred on July 31.

Snake bites are on the rise in Texas this year. As of the end of June, the Texas Poison Center Network was reporting an increase in calls regarding rattlesnake bites of around 15 percent compared to the same period in 2020, The Dallas Morning News reported.

But bites from copperheads were the most common. While rattlesnake bites accounted for around 86 bites in the state during the first half of 2021. Copperheads, however, had bit North Texans and visitors to that part of the state alone around 92 times in the same period.

Public health educator with the North Texas Poison Center, Lizbeth Petty, told the paper: "In North Texas, we've always seen that we've had more snakebites from copperheads than any others."

According to National Geographic, copperhead bites account for the majority of venomous snake bites in the U.S., likely because this species of snake is so widespread throughout the southern states. They can also adapt well to life in developed areas, which increases the chance of an encounter with humans.

The venom excreted by the copperhead as it bites breaks down blood cells in its victims and can lead to symptoms like extreme pain, swelling, breathing difficulties, and a slowing of the victim's heart rate.

Despite this, the venom of the copperhead isn't the most potent snake venom, and bites from the reptile rarely result in fatalities.

The experience hasn't put Williamson off hiking in Texas but may influence his footwear during the next trip from Denver. He told Kxan: "I love Austin and it's a beautiful city, and I'll be back with the proper hiking shoes."

A stock image of a copperhead snake. A hiker in Austin, Texas, was bitten by a copperhead. Mark Kostich/Getty