Respected snake researcher dies from rattlesnake bite

Respected snake researcher dies from rattlesnake bite

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — A respected snake researcher who had been making significant discoveries about the species since childhood has died after being bitten by a timber rattler.

William H. “Marty” Martin died Aug. 3 after being bitten the day before by a captive snake on the property at his home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, according to his wife, Renee Martin.

Martin, who was 80 years old, continued to make arduous mountain hikes to document and count snake populations in remote sites, said Joe Villari, who manages the Bull Run Mountains Preserve in northern Virginia and would accompany Martin on his outings there.

“He used to be in his 80s and was difficult to keep up,” Villari said. He made it a habit to accompany Martin on semi-annual trips to mountain dens where they would live.

John Sealy, a rattlesnake researcher from Stokesdale, North Carolina, who knew Martin for more than 30 years, said Martin was perhaps the foremost authority on timber rattlers, a species he studied since childhood.

As an infant, Martin discovered a number of timber rattlers living in Bull Run Mountains. He convinced a petologist to verify his findings.

Sealy said Martin was known throughout the community of snake experts for his field work and research, and his ability to find and document a species that makes itself hard to find.

“They’re extremely secretive animals,” he said.

Snakebites cause very few deaths. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that they are responsible for approximately five to six fatalities per year in the United States .

Dan Keyler from the University of Minnesota, who is an expert on poisonous snakebite, stated that rattlesnakes may be even more deadly if their size increases. Age can also be a factor in a person’s susceptibility.

Martin was bitten once in his life, but he has since recovered.

Villari stated that timber rattlers are docile and avoid contact with humans. They also don’t bite if accidentally stepped upon.

“They save their venom for their prey,” he said.

The post Respected Snake researcher Dies from Rattlesnake Bite was first published on Associated Press .