Father-of-two Josh McClane was enjoying some fun outdoors with his kids in May 2016. But when his three-year-old son toddled off to fetch his toy truck, the little boy soon let out a scream. His dad, not thinking much of it, went over to see what was going on. But when he got there, he was confronted with a terrifying sight. Moreover, his son was writhing around in immense pain. So now he’s sharing his experience as a warning to other parents.
The dad from Camden, Arkansas was having fun in the backyard with his daughter Jasmine and son Judson. Then, spotting his toy truck across the lawn, little Judson wandered over to play with it. When he picked up the truck, however, the three-year-old suddenly let out a terrifying shriek.
“I heard him yelp real loud,” McClane told KATV. “I figured it was an ant or maybe a wasp.” Nonetheless, his son was clearly in pain, so paternal instincts kicked in and Josh rushed over to help. But it wasn’t an insect that had caused his son to scream. It was something far more deadly.
McClane flipped over the truck, and what he saw underneath both shocked and scared him. Because there, curled up in the undercarriage of the Tonka toy, was a live snake. The concerned dad quickly put two and two together. He figured out that when his son had picked the truck up to play with it, the snake had bitten him on the leg.
McClane immediately rushed the toddler to the local hospital. There, medics were able to tell that the snake was a cottonmouth – also widely known as a water moccasin – and unfortunately, this particular breed was known to be venomous. Doctors therefore advised McClane to take his boy to the Little Rock Children’s Hospital for treatment instead.
“He was in severe pain when we got there,” McClane told KATV. “The second day [was] the same. But they took care of him right away.” In fact, doctors had to administer no fewer than 16 vials of antivenom to treat the bite. Within five days, however, the swelling had subsided.
The cottonmouth snake is the world’s only semi-aquatic viper. This particular breed is native to southeastern states, and although they have a reputation as an aggressive species they tend only to strike when under threat. Their bite, however, has the potential to kill.
Fully grown cottonmouths usually exceed three feet in length, and some can grow as long as six feet. The breed has a broad head with distinctive markings and is almost always black. Some, however, can be more brown or tan in color, with very dark brown crossbands.
Cottonmouth snakes have a reputation for being aggressive. Behavioral experiments, however, showed that when confronted by a human, half of cottonmouths attempted to escape, although more than three-quarters displayed defensive or threatening behaviors. But mostly, the snakes would only bite when touched.
As an aquatic species, the cottonmouth prefers habitats close to water sources such as rivers, streams, lakes and swamps. The breed can be spotted day or night, but when it’s hot will likely seek shade. Furthermore, during mating season – when the McClanes encountered their Cottonmouth – sightings may be more common.
The McClane family live in the woods of Camden, Arkansas. While they understand that there are snakes in the surrounding habitat, it never crossed McClane’s mind that his kids would be in danger. As it turned out, though, their toys provided the perfect snake shelter.
Lamor Williams, who works at the zoo in Little Rock, told KATV why. “[Snakes] like warm spaces,” he said. “This one was likely resting and was likely enjoying a warm space under his toy.” But when little Judson picked up the truck, the snake perhaps felt threatened and struck out.
Commissioner of Agriculture for Texas, Sid Miller shared an image of a snake curled up in a toy on his Facebook page. The image came with a warning that seems to have resonated, as the post has been shared more than 175,000 times.
Miller said, “Snakes hide in the strangest places. Please check all of your children’s outdoor toys before you let them play with them! The only way this was found was because the toy had water in the seat!” He urged followers to spread the message far and wide.
And it’s certainly a message that McClane has taken to heart since his son was bitten by the snake. Now he, too, hopes to spread the word so other parents become more vigilant of potential dangers. He told KATV, “I’m going to start picking up every evening. I’ll go out and scout it out before we all come outside.”
It’s sound advice, for sure. But there are other measures that can be taken as well to prevent chances of having an encounter with a snake. Keeping your lawn cut short, for example, and getting rid of brush piles will offer snakes fewer places to hide.
In addition, snakes are known to feed on birds and rodents. So, if you have a bird feeder, place it away from your house as it could mean feeding time for snakes, too. It’s also a good idea to make sure your yard and house are free from rodents and other animals a snake likes to feed on.
In addition, although keeping your lawn irrigated keeps it looking well, it can also make it appealing to snakes. The reptiles love moisture, while a well-watered yard could also provide a haven for frogs, lizards and other animals that are a feast for snakes. Be particularly wary in vegetable patches and among shrubs.
Like McClane’s encounter proves, parents should also exercise caution around objects in the yard – such as kids’ toys – that have been left unused for a while. Grab a pole and move the item carefully toward you. If there is a snake, it will seek a means of escape, and moving objects away from you means that the first thing it could head toward is you.
And here’s another handy tip. Incredibly, the cottonmouth isn’t a fan of moth balls, and so these could act as a good repellant if scattered around your home. Mothballs are a good alternative to commercial repellants and kinder for household pets. However, since they aren’t designed as a snake deterrent, they should be deployed alongside other preventive measures. Whichever methods you use, remember to be on your guard.