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May 30, 2008

Scary Stuff

These two unnerving bits of info came my way today. Be careful!

Earlier this month, a Palm Beach County teen was treated with antivenin after receiving a bite from a coral snake. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigated this incident, and the teen should make a full recovery. The incident came just weeks after the local media reported two family pets (dogs) died from coral snake bites in separate incidents.

In an effort to educate and inform the public about coral snakes and the availability of antivenin, the FWC hosted a media event in West Palm Beach on May 30. FWC biologists and law enforcement officers participated in the event.  FWC officers are often the first to respond to the scene or the hospital when a person is bitten by a venomous snake. 

Coral snakes are often misidentified with king snakes and milk snakes, which mimic the coral snake’s pattern,” said Shannon Wiyda, an FWC law enforcement investigator. “Coral snakes are not aggressive and have a poor delivery method for injecting venom. Most bites occur because of accidental handling resulting from misidentification or while engaged in an activity like gardening.”

Wiyda advises that the best way to prevent snake bites is to be aware of your surroundings and not handle any snakes, because even nonvenomous snakes can cause injury.

“Coral snakes are normally secretive animals by nature,” said Wes Seitz, FWC biologist.  “Accidental bites are extremely rare.  Usually, a person bit by a coral snake was trying to capture the snake, was harassing it in some way or even trying to kill it.”

The FWC works with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Venom Response Unit to expedite the emergency transportation of antivenin in Florida.  The FWC’s aircraft are available for these rapid responses.  The agreement between the agencies was announced by Gov. Charlie Crist last year.

The Florida Poison Control Information Center Network reported 19 coral snake bites statewide last year. The majority of victims were aged 25-44, and the majority of bites were considered minor.

And this, which checks out on snopes.com as TRUE, and NOT an urban legend:

The doting owner of two young lab mixes purchased Cocoa Mulch to use in their garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats away from their garden. Their dog, Calypso, decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was typical when she eats something new but wasn't acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly. Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the companies web site, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs.

True information about the mulch can be found here - http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/cocoa.htm This site gives the following information:

Cocoa Mulch...
contains a lethal ingredient called 'Theobromine'.

It is lethal to dogs and cats. I
t smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Just a word of caution ? check what you are using in your gardens and be aware of what your gardeners are using in your gardens.

Theobromine is the ingredient that is used to make all chocolate, which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.

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