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Motorist helps stricken snake bite victim

Timber rattlesnake. Courtesy photo

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Copperhead snake. Courtesy photo

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By Joe Beck

The man lying on the ground in a parking pull-off on Remount Road looked like he was in trouble when Sharyn Doffermire of Front Royal drove past him at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

"I thought, 'oh, my God, that's really weird,'" Doffermire said in an interview Friday.

She turned around about a quarter mile past the pull-off near Lake Front Royal and returned to the site to check on the man. Her concerns about him proved to be well founded.

The man in his early 30s told Doffermire he had been bitten by a snake, and the venom was clearly having an effect. He appeared to be in shock and was having trouble staying conscious.

"He was in and out," Doffermire said. "He was dizzy. He was shaking. He could not stand up."

She stayed with the man and held his hand after calling 911. The ambulance took him to Warren Memorial Hospital. Doffermire said the man seemed to be "doing fine" when she spoke with him later.

Doffermire estimated the stricken man had been at the site 20 or 25 minutes when she saw him. She had not seen anything at the pull-off when she passed it while on her way into Front Royal.

Doffermire said he told her he had gotten out of his car to begin hiking on a nearby trail when he felt "excruciating" pain in his leg and fell to the ground.

"You could see his leg was swollen," Doffermire said. "There were marks and a little trickle of blood."

The type of snake that bit the man is unknown. J.D. Kleopfer, a snake specialist with the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said "there was a real good chance" the man was bitten by a copperhead, an adaptable snake found throughout the state in urban and rural areas. Timber rattlesnakes also live in the state's mountainous areas, but copperheads are more common, Kleopfer said.

Kleopfer said snakebites are usually caused by people stepping on them accidentally or trying to handle them.

Kleopfer estimated about 100 people are bitten by copperheads every year in Virginia but no one has ever died from their bites.

"Just keep your eyes open, and if you encounter one, just walk away," Kleopfer said of venomous snakes.

Doffermire, who works as a housekeeper at Wakefield Country Day School in Flint Hill, said her natural inquisitiveness made a difference in helping the man.

"I'm very nosy," she said. "I think it's a shame people have become so leery of helping each other. People are so devious nowadays. I would like to think that somebody owes me that favor and that somewhere along the line, I can get that favor returned."

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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