A Virginia man found dead in his home, surrounded by 24 caged snakes, died of complications from a snakebite, the state's medical examiner's office concluded.
Chesterfield resident Jack Redmond, 70, was found dead with bite marks that appeared to be from a Chinese palm viper on a finger, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported Friday.
While poisonous, that snake is not typically deadly, but experts said Redmond's age and health -- he was battling prostate cancer and taking medications for that -- might have played a role.
"It's not simply a black-and-white issue, whether you're going to live or you're going to die if you're bit by the snake," J.D. Kleopfer, a state game and fisheries officials, told the Times-Dispatch. "A person's age and their health — those are other factors that kind of come into play, along with the location of the bite."
Redmond probably could have survived had he been treated soon after he was bitten, added Dr. Ruddy Rose, director of the Virginia Poison Center. It was not clear how much time passed before Redmond's wife called for help and first responders reached the home.
Redmond had considered himself an amateur naturalist but was violating an ordinance banning the possession of venomous snakes and wild and exotic animals.
The 24 snakes at his home were all venomous, and most were rattlesnakes, copperheads or vipers. The state game agency hopes to find zoos and nature centers to take the snakes.
Snakebite deaths are very rare in the U.S., said Rose, who could recall only two deaths in the past four decades in Virginia "that were really proven to be the result of a snakebite."
"It's unusual to die from a snakebite in this part of the world," he added. "There are deaths that occur in Asia and South America and Africa, but it's very unusual in North America, if you get medical treatment."
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