Politics & Government

SC lawmaker lands in intensive care after venomous snake bite

A South Carolina lawmaker is being monitored in Lexington Medical Center’s intensive care unit after he was bitten by a copperhead snake Sunday night.

State Rep. Chris Wooten, R-Lexington, said he was wearing flip flops in his front yard, letting his dog out when he stepped on the venomous serpent. He killed the snake with a brick.

He told The State he is fine but has to be monitored to ensure the antivenin (colloquially known as anti-venom) works properly.

Wooten has been in the ICU since late Sunday night. He told The State he hopes to go home Tuesday.

Pictures he sent The State show his right foot was swollen dramatically, with a purple wound on the top of his foot.

Copperheads are among six types of venomous snakes in South Carolina. Their bites are the least toxic of the six but can be quite painful, said Steve Bennett, a retired Department of Natural Resources reptile biologist. Often people bitten by copperheads will notice a swelling and discoloration near the wound, he said.

“It hurts like hell,’’ Bennett said. “I’ve had friends bitten by them. But it’s not life threatening.’’

Brown and tan in color, these snakes can grow to four feet long. They are found throughout the Palmetto State and considered the most common venomous serpents. Bennett said copperheads often strike without warning, as opposed to rattlesnakes whose tails will rattle before a strike.

“Copperheads tend to lash out,’’ he said.

Snake bites, particularly fatal ones, are not common in South Carolina. But they do occur from time to time. Three years ago, a rattlesnake killed a locally well known conservationist with a bite to the leg at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge.

Wooten, a freshman lawmaker, was already famous around the State House for another incident that occurred in his front yard.

Last August, the assistant River Bluff High School football coach tackled a suspect who was running from Lexington police and wandered toward his home. Wooten pinned the suspect down until officers arrived.

Update: Wooten was allowed to return home — albeit with a swollen foot — Tuesday evening.

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Avery G. Wilks is The State’s senior S.C. State House and politics reporter. He was named the 2018 S.C. Journalist of the Year by the South Carolina Press Association. He grew up in Chester, S.C., and graduated from the University of South Carolina’s top-ranked Honors College in 2015.