Posts Tagged ‘calm breathing’

Just waiting at home for it to be over.

SAN CLEMENTE, -(CA)- San Clemente landscape contractor Jim Miller, a lifelong surfer, determined he would not go in the water for an afternoon session Sunday after checking the waves from a popular clifftop lookout off Basilone Road above Trestles surf beach.

As he returned to the road along an overgrown cliff trail, he was bitten on his right foot by a rattlesnake he never saw.

The trail he usually takes is overgrown because of recent rains and has narrowed to less than a foot from the usual 3 feet, he said.

“I heard the rattle just as he got me and then again as he was taking off,” said Miller, 54. “I knew it was a rattlesnake right away and called 911 with my cellphone.

“At the hospital, the nurse asked me twice if my affairs were in order and if I had a will.”

No more toes to the nose for awhile.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says five to seven deaths occur each year in the United States from among 7,000 to 8,000 reported rattlesnake bites. Such bites also can have serious side effects. About 800 rattlesnake bites are reported each year in California, with less than 1 percent of them fatal.

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, six species of rattlesnakes – of about 30 types found worldwide – are native to California, living in areas from below sea level to more than 10,000 feet. Generally, rattlesnakes hibernate all winter and come out to find prey such as small rodents and lizards in March and April. They return to their dens to hibernate in the fall.

Remember to keep a sharp weather eye out for rattlers.

Rattlesnakes, which can grow up to 6 feet long, produce venom in glands behind their eyes. They disable prey and fend off predators by injecting the venom through hollow retractable fangs. Most snake bites occur as they travel between their dens and their prey.

Rattlesnakes get their name from the distinctive rattle on their tail, which they use to warn intruders. The rattle grows segment by segment as the snake changes skin, or molts, which occurs several times a year.

Miller said his regular physical activity, such as surfing, swimming, cycling and yoga, were big factors in his survival. But without the arrival of paramedics within minutes, he’s not sure what the outcome would have been.

Miller said he initially felt pain from the bite, but soon the feeling became as if he had been put in a straitjacket with locks clamped on his chest. He concentrated on staying calm and breathing at an even pace.

After he was taken to Saddleback Memorial Medical Center San Clemente, medical personnel noted his pulse at 150 beats a minute, and he had intense tingling in his lips, eyelids and fingertips, Miller said. He watched the swelling climb up his leg and into his abdominal area that even two days later had not receded as he rested at home.

Surfers at Trestles said Tuesday that they had not seen any rattlesnakes lately but generally were not surprised to hear about Miller’s bite. Josh Baxter, 41, of San Clemente has surfed at Trestles his entire life and said he saw a 5-foot-long rattler last year on the trail near where Miller was bitten.

“When it rains out here, the creek washes them out and they are everywhere,” Baxter said. “There are a lot of critters out here.”

Miller said he expects to fully recover, and he laughed as he said he now has what many American Indians would say is the “spirit of the snake.”




What do you do if you encounter a rattlesnake on a trail in or around San Clemente? The Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy is offering a workshop at 7 p.m. April 13 at a site to be determined, presented by the North American Field Herping Association. It’s about local snake species and dos and don’ts. It’s free, but reservations are required. Email staff@rmvreserve.org.

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