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Man bitten by rattlesnake while trying to pick it up with barbecue tongs

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    CORONA, California (KCAL, KCBS) — A man is recovering after being bitten by a rattlesnake near Corona while trying to pick it up with barbecue tongs, Riverside County Animal Control officials said.

Riverside County firefighters were called to home on Elderberry Lane in Sycamore Creek, just south of Corona, at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday to help a man who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He reportedly tried to pick up the snake with barbecue tongs and was bitten in the left hand, near his thumb, according to John Welsh, spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

The unidentified man was reportedly trying to remove the snake to protect children in the area. Firefighters treated the man at the scene before he was taken to the hospital.

The rattler was found near some bushes when animal control officers arrived. Officer Mike McGee used 5-foot tongs and a humane storage bucket to capture the snake, drawing a crowd of children and adults filming the incident with their phones. It was euthanized after McGee determined it would not be safe to release near the community.

“We try to release rattlesnakes within one mile of where we remove it from, but it was highly likely this snake might end up in one of the adjacent homes again,” Officer Mike McGee said in a statement. “I didn’t believe a routine release would be safe this time.”

McGee has responded to at least four rattlesnake calls in the last couple of weeks, and safely removed and released two rattlesnakes, officials said. One of those releases included a snake similar in species and size to the one that bit the man Saturday.

Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said cooking utensils should not be used when dealing with dangerous reptiles.

“A coiled rattlesnake can strike the length of its body and the bites are painful, and in some rare cases, fatal, Mayer said in a statement.

The man, who asked to animal control officers to withhold his name, remained hospitalized Monday, but says he is doing “remarkably well” and expects to released later in the day.

According to Welsh, the man says he’s been around snakes all his life, which is why he thought he might be able to capture the rattler. The man described the barbecue tongs as being 14 inches long, but joked in a text message, “not long enough!” Welsh said.

Authorities say rattlesnake sightings will become more frequent as the weather gets warmer. Riverside County Department of Animal Services has a detailed guide (PDF) on what people can do if they see a rattlesnake, and how homeowners can make their yards more rattlesnake-proof.

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