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Toddler Recovering After Copperhead Snake Bite

RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) - A North Texas toddler is recovering after getting bit by a copperhead snake earlier this week.

The two-year-old boy was playing on the playground at North Star Learning Center in Richardson, which is affiliated with Canyon Creek Presbyterian Church.

Learning center employee Robyn Shearin said despite two adults supervising the playground the bite was hard to prevent.

"The snake was very hard to see, because it blended in with the wood chips," she explained. "Immediately, the teacher rushed him [the child] in and announced 'this is an emergency.'"

Shearin said the other children were immediately brought inside and 911 was called and emergency crews took the boy to the hospital.

As the child received medical care attention then turned to the snake.

"Firefighters came out and took care of the snake," Shearin said. "And took the snake to the hospital to confirm what kind it was."

The snake was identified as a copperhead and the information let doctors know exactly what type of anti-venom to treat the boy with.

Snake expert Matt Evans says copperhead venom isn't as dangerous as some others.

"The venom for this particular type of snake is a degenerative venom, not a neurotoxin, so it's not as dangerous as say a coral snake," he explained. "A coral snake has a neurotoxin so your breathing, like within an hour, can be labored and disrupted."

The most serious threat from copperhead venom is if the bite victim doesn't seek medical attention.

"This degenerative venom in time breaks up muscle tissue -- it kinds of rots it," Evans said. "So, the only real danger of that is if it's left untreated."

According to Evans, one way to prevent snakes from being in the area is to keep grass cut short.

"The finer the trim of the grass the less likely that snakes will be there because they don't have adequate cover," he said. "There's lots of predators against snakes, lots of birds and lots of different animals, so they do prefer to be in hidden areas."

The playground at North Star Learning Center has wood chips and is surrounded by a sidewalk, but there are other factors that could have brought the snake to them.

"We back up to a nature preserve, it's wooded with a creek," Shearin said.

It isn't clear exactly what the circumstances were when the child was bitten, but it's possible the little boy and other children had seen and were looking at the snake when it happened.

"The reason why people get bit is usually because they don't notice the animal and they either step on it or grab it," Evans said. "So, it [the snake] gets startled and it does a quick strike… and then it flees."

Experts say it's important not to overreact and immediately kill a snake if you come across one.

"They [snakes] balance out things like doves and squirrels and rats and we need these different types of animals in our ecosystem to balance things out."

Shearin said playtime on the playground at North Star has been suspended as they wait for the exterminator to treat the area and give the 'all clear.'

As for the toddler bitten by the snake Shearin said, "The little boy is doing exceptionally well, way better than expected. We hope he'll return to school next week."

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