Venomous snake bites have struck more people in 2012 than average. Poison control center officials blame the mild winter and early spring.
"This year is a banner year for snakebites in California for sure and probably similarly across the country where there has been a warm winter and early spring," Stuart Heard, executive director of the California poison control system, told USAToday.
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Besides waking up early, more of the young snakes born in the fall last year survived the winter, one amateur herpetologist told WSPA in North Carolina. One North Carolina hospital treated four bite victims between January and April, whereas last year there were none.
Although most snakebites are non-fatal, a Tennessee man succumbed to the bite of a copperhead in January, according to USAToday.
In West Virginia this May, a snake-handling Pentecostal Christian preacher was struck down by one of the rattlesnakes he used in his religious services.
Even Wal-Mart shoppers aren't safe from snake bites. A man buying supplies for his marijuana garden was bitten by a rattlesnake in a Wal-Mart garden center this year.
Other snake bite hot spots, according to USAToday:
In California, there were 129 snakebites reported during April and May compared to 70 last year during those months.
Utah Poison Control Center reported eight snakebites from April through the first three weeks in May 2012, compared to three last year.
So far in 2012, 235 bites have been reported in Florida, compared to 220, the average for January to late May during the past four years.
"We usually start getting them around the beginning of March or so," center director Gaylord Lopez said. "This year, surprisingly, we realized our first snakebite call was in the first week of January." Georgia's Poison Control center is 15-20 percent busier treating snakebite victims than they were this time last year, with at least 120 bite reports.
The northern copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen (Centers for Disease Control, Wikimedia Commons)