TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
Special Report filed by AAF
from The Times Dispatch, Virginia
home, snakes bound for zoos
January 17, 2001
BY MARK HOLMBERG
Townsend, a 42-year-old nuclear
power plant engineer, had been keeping 50 to 60 poisonous snakes in
"I hope he won't try
this again," Kitchen said yesterday after inspecting Townsend's now
Townsend is resting at home
after his expensive brush with death, but his fanged friends are all
Townsend's wife was "really
terrified" by the incident (the couple has young children), and Kitchen
"I think they decided they had had enough," Kitchen said.
Deputies and rescuers responding
to Townsend's 911 call for help were surprised by the extent of the
One of Townsend's exotic vipers
was so deadly, a state biologist called it a "two-stepper," Kitchen
Townsend was just one of many
"herp keepers" across the country who collect poisonous species,
Rumors about Townsend's deadly
snakes had circulated in the Waverly area for some time, and officials
"But we couldn't find any law that would enable us to do anything about it," Kitchen said.
Saturday's bite changed all that.
Townsend had been using tongs
to feed a rat to a spectacled cobra from India - the deadly Naja naja
"He knew he was in trouble,"
Kitchen said. By the time rescuers had arrived, "he had written down
Deputy Sheriff Donnie Marrin
knew as soon as he arrived that Townsend would not make it if he was
Townsend was sitting up and
talking to Marrin at first. But, by the time the helicopter lifted off,
Ordering the helicopter was one of several key actions that saved Townsend's life, Kitchen said.
Nurses at Virginia's Poison
Center hit the phones, locating antivenin in New York City and Miami, and
Townsend's hand is still swollen,
but he is expected to make a full recovery. He declined requests for an
"He's a sharp guy," Kitchen said. "He just has an unusual hobby."
Kitchen said he believes Townsend's
health insurance will be paying for the intensive and expensive
© 2001, Richmond Newspapers Inc
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