Florida Boy, 7, Almost Dies After Getting Bit by Venomous Snake in Backyard

Elijah Bustamante, 7, has been bitten by a venomous snake in Clay County, Florida, and has had to spend four days in the ICU recovering.

Elijah was treated with seven bags of antivenom, is still in a lot of pain, and cannot walk on the swollen leg that he was bitten on.

Doctors have deduced from Elijah's descriptions the snake that bit Elijah was a venomous water moccasin.

"He said like a dark gray with dark spots and a fat head. A lot of the doctors went on their phones and pulled up different ones and every time he picked out one it ended up being the water moccasin snake," Elijah's mother, Sanita Bustamante, told News4Jax.

water moccasin
Stock image: a water moccasin, or cottonmouth, with classic open mouth threat display. Elijah was bitten by this kind of venomous snake. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Water moccasins, also known as cottonmouths, are often confused with their non-venomous cousins, water snakes, which are often found in the same habitats. Moccasins can be recognized from their distinctive large blocky heads with narrow necks. They are relatively unaggressive, with experiments done on wild specimens showing that of 45 wild moccasins, 51 percent tried to escape, while 28 of 36 (78 percent) displayed threat signals and were only likely to bite when picked up with a mechanical hand.

"I was in the backyard playing and I was going to pick up a rock and the snake jumped out and bit me," Elijah told News4Jax.

Florida has six native venomous snake species. Florida's Poison Control Centers told News4Jax that in northeastern Florida, there have been 40 people, from 3 to 75 years old, who have been bitten by water moccasins so far this year alone.

The venom of water moccasins contains strong hemotoxins that can hemorrhage and destroy tissue, leading to "temporary and/or permanent tissue and muscle damage; loss of an extremity, depending on the location of the bite; internal bleeding; and extreme pain around the injection area," according to LiveScience. Deaths are rare however, and bites can be treated with CroFab antivenom, a serum made with venom components from four species of American pit vipers.

If you are bitten by a snake, spokesperson Mike McCormick from the Poison Control Center says that you should not under any circumstances attempt to capture the snake, and to get help immediately, even if you're not sure what species has bitten you.

"If it's safe to do so and you can get a picture, that's OK, but please don't try to capture them", McCormick told News4Jax. "Please don't ice where the snake has bitten," he urges, and "please don't try to cut the wound and suck the venom out."