All Dixie Scott wanted to do was play in the woods Thursday evening. But what started out as some harmless fun ultimately resulted in a helicopter ride to a Nashville hospital.
“She was walking backward. Next thing you know, something bit her and she was on the ground. Couldn’t walk,” mother Kacy Scott said.
Dixie, 11, received a bite from a venomous snake in western Hopkins County. Doctors think it was a copperhead.
“The pain going up her leg was just too much,” Scott said. “It was really scary.”
The two hurried to an emergency room, and that led to the helicopter flight to Nashville. Scott said things looked good Friday afternoon, after about six doses of an antivenom medicine.
“The swelling has gone down a lot,” Scott said. “She does still have some discoloration starting at the bite, and working up her leg toward her knee.”
Dixie was able to wiggle her toes and flex her foot Friday, Scott said. If the recovery continues, she’ll be able to go home today.
“I normally hear about, maybe, 5-10 venomous snakebites each year in Kentucky,” state herpetologist John McGregor said Friday by email from Frankfort. (A herpetologist studies reptiles.)
“They’re active at this time of year,” Hopkins County wildlife biologist Thomas Young III added.
Young encountered three non-lethal snakes during his Friday work. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources lists only four kinds of venomous snakes in the commonwealth: copperhead, western cottonmouth, timber rattlesnake and western pigmy rattlesnake.
“They’re camouflaged really easy in those areas,” Scott said. “There was a creek nearby.”
Young noted cottonmouths are most likely to live around Clear Creek, Flat Creek and the Tradewater River.
The problem with identifying venomous from non-venomous snakes is that you have to get close to them. The dangerous ones have eyes with vertical pupils and pits below them. Non-venomous snakes have round pupils, along with scales in two distinct rows.
McGregor said his research into Kentucky snakes has found “fewer than a dozen snakebite deaths in our state records in modern times — the past 100 years, at least.” He said all of them occurred at “snake-handling churches.”
Dixie is living to share the story of her bite — and explain the take-home lesson to her mom.
“She will definitely not be going out in the woods in her Crocs anymore,” Scott said. “From now on, it’s going to be pants and boots.”