Snake Bites Rescuer During Operation to Save Injured Hiker in Texas Canyon

A rescue team member was bitten by a snake while taking part in a mission to assist an injured hiker on Sunday in Texas.

Authorities responded when a 48-year-old woman called 911 after injuring her left knee while hiking in McKelligon Canyon, which is part of the Franklin Mountains in El Paso. The woman—who was not identified by name—was left unable to walk.

The call was forwarded to the El Paso Fire Department Search and Rescue Team who spearheaded the rescue operation with helicopter pilots from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Air Marine Operations (AMO) branch in El Paso.

It was during the effort that one of the 16 personnel was bitten by a snake, local news outlet KVIA reported. The person was treated at University Medical Center in El Paso and has since been released. It was not clear if the snake was venomous.

Local fire department spokesperson Enrique Dueñas-Aguilar said that the hiker suffered moderate injuries and had been on the "Sugarloaf Mountain" trail with at least one other person at the time of the Easter Sunday incident, El Paso Times reported.

In a statement, U.S. customs authorities said they had been contacted by El Paso Fire Department at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday. The AMO branch then tasked a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to help airlift the injured hiker out of the canyon.

The Blackhawk landed on the canyon summit at roughly 3:25 p.m. and the woman was loaded into the UH-60 helicopter alongside a "paramedic from the rescue team." It was not immediately clear if the paramedic, unnamed, was the snake bite victim.

The helicopter landed at W.H. Beaumont Army Hospital Helicopter Pad just after 3:30 p.m. and the hiker was transferred to an awaiting ambulance, officials said.

John Stonehouse, lead of the AMO branch, said: "[We were] glad to assist the search and rescue team from El Paso Fire Department in helping this injured woman."

"AMO serves the people of the United States by safeguarding our borders. We also often participate in life saving rescue missions as part of our day-to-day operations and Sunday was no exception to that mission," Stonehouse added.

Releasing multiple photos from the scene, the El Paso Fire Department tweeted: Crews located and evaluated the patient and USCBP Air and Marine Ops crews airlifted her back to safety. Special thanks to Air and Marine Ops for always having our back."

Yesterday, #EPFD #COMSAR crews assisted an injured hiker at the Sugarloaf Mtn Trail. Crews located and evaluated the patient and USCBP Air and Marine Ops crews airlifted her back to safety.

Special thanks to Air and Marine Ops for always having our back!!

Photos by EPFD E Huie

— El Paso Fire Department (@EPTXFire) April 5, 2021

Texas Parks and Wildlife says the state is home to over 105 species of snake, with 15 of those "potentially dangerous to humans." It said the most dangerous species include the copperhead, cottonmouth, coral and variations of rattlesnake.

In a fact-sheet published on its website the wildlife agency says: "Snakes do not prey on humans and they will not chase you, in fact they usually retreat or escape if given the opportunity. The danger comes when they are either surprised or cornered."

El Paso Fire Department
This photo from the scene was released by the El Paso Fire Department (EPFD) Twitter account @EPTXFire on April 5, 2021. EPFD/E.Huie