An elderly renowned snake enthusiast died after he was bitten by a rattlesnake in West Virginia last week, his family said.
William H. “Marty” Martin, 80, was killed on Aug. 3 after he was bitten by a timber rattler on his property in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, according to his wife, Renee Martin.
Despite his age, Martin would regularly make the arduous trek up local mountains to document the snake populations at remote sites, according to Joe Villari, manager of the Bull Run Mountains Preserve in northern Virginia.
“He was in his 80s, and he was hard to keep up with,” said Villari, who would join Martin on his semiannual excursions.
Martin was perhaps the country’s leading expert on timber rattlers — a species that is notoriously hard to find — which he had studied since he was a child, according to John Sealy, a rattlesnake researcher from Stokesdale, North Carolina.
“They’re extremely secretive animals,” Sealy said.
Snake bites are rarely fatal. The Centers for Disease Control estimates they account for about five deaths annually in the US.
Dan Keyler, a toxicology professor at the University of Minnesota and an expert on snakebites, said a second snakebite can be more lethal than a first for some people.
Rattlesnakes in particular can be more dangerous if they grow to a size that allows them to inject more venom, and a person’s age affects their susceptibility, he said.
Martin had been bitten before in his career, but recovered.
Villari said timber rattlers tend to be docile, avoid human contact and often won’t bite even if they’re accidentally stepped on.
“They save their venom for their prey,” he said.
With Post Wires