Approaching an alert and agitated rattlesnake is ill-advised, but picking it up and wrapping it around your neck for a photo? That is just asking for trouble. Yet to 36-year-old Alex Gomez of Lake Elsinore, California, it seemed like a good idea at the time—until the snake bit him on the hand and sent him to the hospital on Monday.
The species of the rattlesnake has not been identified, but it could take more than two weeks for the venom to fully leave his system. Gomez is now hoping that the encounter will not cost him his hand.
“I’m shocked that he would have that things around his neck,” Alex’s mother Deborah told CBS Los Angeles. “It could’ve bit his neck, and that would have been it. That’s just being a fool.”
She said that the skin near the bite wound is already rotting away. Depending on the species, rattlesnake bites can cause severe pain, tissue damage, muscle paralysis, and, in severe cases, death. In modern times death from a rattlesnake bite is becoming a rarer occurrence, thanks to powerful antivenin treatments. However, Gomez could be left with a permanent souvenir of his encounter if the toxins continue to eat away at his hand.
Gomez told reporters that he found the rattlesnake near his family’s ranch and began taking photos of it. At some point he picked the animal up and wrapped it around his neck, despite what he described as angry rattles from the animal. Gomez had the opportunity to take just one selfie with the snake before it struck and eventually slithered off.
“I was going to take it off my neck and do something else with it, but it turned sideways and it sunk one tooth into my hand,” he told KTLA during a bedside interview.
A neighbor discovered Gomez writhing in pain and called for emergency services to airlift the victim to a nearby hospital. For now, Gomez says he is just grateful to be alive.
The 36-year-old may have other things to worry about, especially when the hospital bill comes in the mail. Antivenin treatments are highly effective but are also excruciatingly expensive. In July, another California man was also bitten while posing with a venomous snake for a selfie and recently received a bill for $153,161.25. It is not not known how much of the bill will be covered by his health insurance, if he has any.
You can watch an interview with Gomez’s friends and family below: