Paramedics and Cache County Search and Rescue retrieved a 16-year-old from Logan Canyon on Tuesday after he was bitten by a rattlesnake on Crimson Trail.
Crystal Morrell said her son Ashton — a cross-country athlete for Ridgeline High School — was hiking on the trail near the area known as the China Wall on Tuesday afternoon when he was bitten by a baby rattlesnake.
“It was pre-race day, so they decided they wanted to do a hike,” Crystal said. “The two dogs and his friend went before him, and then when he passed, the snake it struck him.”
Crystal said the snake, too young to have yet developed a rattle, made no sound when it left two fang marks on Ashton’s toe, left exposed by sandals. Knowing he had phone service a quarter mile down the trail, Ashton walked until he could contact his mom, who then called 911.
“That’s such an awful call to have,” Crystal said, but explained that soon being surrounded by first responders eased the scary situation. “I knew he was in good hands. I knew we were going to be fine. Their dedication is so awesome.”
For Crystal, relying on her faith also alleviated her fear.
“Being able to say a prayer and feel the peace that I felt from a loving Heavenly Father was the only thing that made it OK,” Crystal said.
According to Crystal, the rescue took an estimated 45 minutes. First responders hauled Ashton out on a rugged, wheeled gurney described as a “deer cart.” Despite the swelling of Ashton’s foot, Crystal said he was responding so well to the bite that paramedics initially thought he had received a bite with little to no venom.
Ashton “was insanely calm,” Crystal said. “He is so put together.”
Ultimately, the pain and swelling increased and Ashton was taken to a local hospital where he began receiving antivenom treatments. Crystal said Ashton may receive up to five or more antivenom doses and should be released from the hospital in the next couple of days.
“He has to continue receiving antivenom until things improve,” Crystal said.
Cache County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Doyle Peck said if a person is bitten by a rattlesnake, it’s important to stay calm and, if possible, avoid excessive movement, since raising the heart rate can lead to complications in regards to venom. Tourniquets and sucking out the venom, Peck said, are not effective.
Alan Savitzky, professor of biology and a herpetologist at Utah State University, said while there is some evidence that certain species of snakes are more dangerous as babies, generally, most species are more threatening as adults simply because they have more venom to deploy. Savitzky said if a baby snake decided to deliver a large dose of venom — known as venom metering — it would likely be smaller than a large dose from an adult.
“Venomous snakes are really reluctant to bite,” Savitzky said, explaining that snakes generally rely on camouflage and find it energetically expensive to synthesize venom in their glands.
According to Savitzky, a quarter of rattlesnake bites are “dry bites” without venom.
Crystal said she hopes speaking about the experience can help someone else and championed the first responders for their help.
“As a resident of this valley, I’m grateful to know that we’re watched over by such a great team of people that really do care and want to protect and take care of us,” Crystal said.