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NY: Rattlesnake bites Morris man during roundup

Monday, June 13, 2011

MORRIS -- A snake hunter was injured Saturday morning at the 56th Annual Morris Rattlesnake Hunt, a rarity at the event. Unless your last name is Osborn.

Alvin Osborn, 51, of Morris was bitten on the left hand by a timber rattlesnake he was trying to capture it about five miles southeast of Morris in southern Tioga County, Pa. Osborn was treated initially at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Wellsboro then transferred to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. Later, doctors shipped him to a Harrisburg-area hospital, where he remained in satisfactory condition on Monday.

His father, Amos Osborn of Morris, was snake-pit boss at the event for 50 years. In 2003, a feisty shakeytail in his grasp whipped its head around and whacked him on the hand. Amos spent days in the hospital -- and returned, undaunted, to the pit in 2004. Then, in 2006, lightning struck twice and another rattler got him.

That time, he received 20 vials of antivenin and his kidneys nearly failed.

Amos' wife Jo Ann interceded and his snake-handling days were over.

All went well between Osborns and reptiles -- until Saturday, when Alvin tried to remove a rattler from a gap in its fieldstone lair.

"Alvin had the snake just above the rattles with a (mechanical) grabber, and he was trying to pull it out," said Scott Henry, who was hunting with Alvin. "But the snake wouldn't budge. So he reached above the grabber with his bare hand to try to ease it out without hurting it and pulled, and the snake whipped around and got him."

Alvin's fellow hunters radioed the situation to emergency workers, who immediately provided medical attention. His left hand and arm began swelling rapidly. By Monday, the swelling had lessened considerably, Jo Ann Osborn said. It was likely that Alvin would be transferred back to Soldiers and Sailors in the very near future for observation.

Whether Alvin returns to the snake hunt remains to be seen. A lot depends on whether Jo Ann gets her way.

"I talked to my other son in Louisiana," she said. "I told him the next time he texts Alvin to tell him I found some more gray hairs on my head."

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