STRANGE GH: Half a rattlesnake bites and kills farmer in 1891

Sep 19, 2011


The man stopped the machine he was riding and stepped off it to take a look. When he discovered the snake was in two pieces, he reached to grab the tail end to keep, perhaps as a souvenir. While gripping the rattle section of the snake, the other half, which included the creature’s head, struck, biting the farmer on the arm.

The man, knowing the danger, and feeling the sting of the venom, ran back toward his farmhouse, seeking help from neighbors. But, the effect of the venom took him fast. Even with the assistance of neighbors, any help was to no avail. The farmer died as a result of the snake’s poison.

While rattlesnake fatalities are rare in western Michigan, another occurred 18 years later. On Sept. 9, 1909, Hudsonville farmer Thomas Damm was bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake, and died the following day. The snake laid underneath a wood pile where Damm was working.

On Sept. 27, 1954, a West Olive girl suffered a rattlesnake bite on the leg while playing with friends near her home. She made a full recovery at the Holland Hospital. The “serpent killers” likely were all a breed known as a Massasauga rattlesnake. The eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous snake, and is a rare sight for state residents.

In recent years, a Burmese python in Ottawa County made headline news. On Aug. 19, 2008, a Michigan state trooper shot and killed the nearly 7-foot long snake after it slithered onto a West Olive road frightening passing motorists. Authorities were concerned the python might attack children in the area and suspected the python was a released or an escaped pet.

Most of historical Massasauga sightings on record originate in Oakland, Livingston, Jackson and Washtenaw counties in southeast Michigan and in Allegan, Barry and Kalamazoo counties in southwest Michigan.

While the unfortunate Ottawa County victims had no protection from the Massasauga, the creature became protected under Michigan law in 1988.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.