A baby rattlesnake bit a 4-year-old boy in east San Diego when the child became too curious and picked it up, his mother told NBC 7.
Paxton Clark's encounter with the rattler happened just after 11 a.m. at a home on East Washington Street in Ramona. Cal Fire officials rushed to the scene to find the child suffering from a bite wound to his index finger.
Paxton was airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital, officials confirmed.
The boy's mother, Robin, told NBC 7 Paxton was playing with his cousin Reece in the backyard near a large tree when he picked up a white and black-colored baby rattlesnake, which bit him on the finger.
"They're boys, they love the snakes and reptiles, and we've had lots of those kinds of conversations about we don't pick up or touch any kind of reptile that we don't know what it is," said Robin.
Minutes later, Paxton's finger started swelling, his family said.
Robin said, as a precaution, her son was being monitored at the ICU Thursday evening. Doctors plan to watch the boy closely for the next two to three days.
On Friday morning, Robin told NBC 7 Paxton was still in the ICU, but was doing well -- eating, talking and playing. She said that although the swelling on his finger has worsened, the boy had not needed more anti-venom.
Paxton's cousin Reece said he learned from Paxton's mistake. "I'm not picking up a snake," he said.
The San Diego heat is notorious for bringing out rattlesnakes. At the time of the bite, the temperature in Ramona was in the upper-80s. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a heat advisory for parts of San Diego in effect from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
Back in May, officials with the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services told NBC 7 that rattlesnake sightings and calls were on the rise across the county. At that point, Animal Services had received 385 calls reporting rattlesnakes, compared to 356 calls at the same time in 2014.
At that time, Daniel E. DeSousa, deputy director for the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services, said the top ZIP code for rattlesnake calls had been 92124 — the Tierrasanta area near Mission Trails Regional Park.
According to Animal Services, other top ZIP codes for rattlesnake calls in 2015 have included: 92131 (Scripps Ranch); 92127 (4S Ranch); 92129 (Rancho Penasquitos); and 92130 (Carmel Valley).
On Friday, DeSousa told NBC 7 that, so far, for the month of October, Animal Services has received 39 calls reporting rattlesnakes.
"Last year for the same time period, we had only received 25 calls," he added.
According to Animal Services, residents can discourage rattlers from making themselves at home by getting rid of wood piles, fallen fruit, garbage heaps and outdoor dog food bowls around homes and properties.
They attract mice and rats, which in turn attract snakes, the department said.
It’s important to remain alert and aware of your surroundings during rattlesnake season, as the critters tend to hide in tall grass, weeds and brush alongside paths.
Those who encounter a rattler should give the animal space and calmly back away from it.
The Department of Animal Services said the following rattlesnake precautions should be taken:
- Wear sturdy hiking boots with ankle support so that your feet are protected.
- Stay on paths and trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and brush where snakes may hide.
- Make sure you can see where you are reaching and that you can see ahead of you. Look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or wood.
- Consider bringing a walking stick while hiking. If you encounter a snake it may strike the stick instead of you or your pet.
- If you live in an area where rattlesnakes have been found, check your yard before letting your pets and children out to play.
There are five varieties of rattlesnakes found in San Diego County. If you’re bit, you should immediately call 911 and remove any constricting clothing or accessories from your body, like rings or watches.
If you spot a rattlesnake on your property and you live in unincorporated areas or Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee or Solana Beach, call County Animal Services at (619) 236-2341. Other residents should contact their local animal control departments for help.