Local News

Children kill dangerous snake at Lake Gaston

Posted September 16, 2011

— Two young boys went looking for fish in Lake Gaston, but they came back with the body of a venomous snake. 

Payne Matthews, 9, said he and his brother Levi, 7, came across the snake, later identified by a local veterinarian as a cottonmouth, while walking back to the family's lake house nearly two weeks ago. 

"I prayed to God that we could kill the snake and have protection," Payne said. 

At first, Payne tried to beat the snake with an oar. 

"It was still hissing (and) could come up and bite us, so we decided to drown it in a bucket of water," Payne said. 

The cottonmouth, also known as a water mocassin, was about 4-foot-2 – as tall as Payne. 

"Most kids don't do that everyday," North Carolina State University researcher Warren Booth said of the incident. 

Booth advises against approaching the snakes. 

The venom on a cottonmouth is toxic. It can cause the death of the body's tissues, in addition to sweat and dizziness. 

"It can even cause death. That's a reason to avoid it. It's not a reason to kill it," he said. 

Booth said that, in most cases, these snakes would rather flee than deal with humans.

He called what happened with the Matthews' boys "very disappointing and very disturbing."

"Most reptiles (and) snakes want nothing to do with us," Booth said. 

Children kill venomous snake at Lake Gaston Children kill venomous snake at Lake Gaston

But the boys and their mother said they don't regret their decision.

A lot of people swim in the lake, catch fish or try to catch fish like the boys did. The last thing they want is for people to be bitten by a poisonous snake.

Booth said the average person has a better chance of being struck by lighting than being bitten by a poisonous snake. 


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  • clampettem Sep 20, 2011

    Boys will be boys?? Too bad snakes aren't allowed the same sentiment. They should have left it alone.

  • jlschmid9 Sep 19, 2011

    of course a cottonmouth will be aggressive and stand its ground if you beat it with an oar! just looking at the size of it (4 feet), that was a pretty large cottonmouth that would've had a long striking range. normally you only see them in the 3 foot range. drowning it in a bucket wasn't the safest thing either since they are an aquatic species and im sure they got within close proximity of the snake. those boys were lucky they didn't get bit. always best to walk away and let it be. i would say the majority of all snakes killed is because of ignorance and/or misidentification. my favorite "i just killed a baby copperhead" actually you just killed a baby ratsnake. if you see something that looks like a cottonmouth around RDU, chances are it is not one. we have two types of water snakes that look almost identical to the cottonmouth. We are right on the western boundary of where cottonmouths are found. snakes are afraid of humans but if you harrass them enough any kind will defend itself

  • farm Sep 19, 2011

    Killing things out of ignorance is common sense? Who knew?

    Are you not pro choice?

  • haggis basher Sep 19, 2011

    "any poisonous snake is a dead snake according to my standards. I ain't got no doctorate degreee but I got common sense."

    Killing things out of ignorance is common sense? Who knew?

  • Rebelyell55 Sep 16, 2011

    I agree heatherh...the boys were just being boys. I say good riddance to a dangerous snake.
    September 16, 2011 7:14 p.m.
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    I agree and WRAL didn't post my first comment, which I'll admit was a little strong, since I surely would not call these will ones "hero" far from it. But I growed up in the deep wood so I maybe alittle bit more vocal. I still stand by my NON posted comment that this article send the wrong message to our youth.

  • BrightLight Sep 16, 2011

    Recently while my son and I were on a canoe fishing in Eastern NC we had a big cottonmouth come from the shore and approach within 2 feet of our canoe. They can be very aggressive when you are in their territory.

  • injameswetrust2003 Sep 16, 2011

    I agree heatherh...the boys were just being boys. I say good riddance to a dangerous snake.

  • marinewife101 Sep 16, 2011

    Yeah, I agree with "Jet" when he/she stated that Booth sounded as if he was more concerned for the snake than the boys....When I read the article and came across what Booth had to say about it, I had to re-read it b/c I couldn't believe he was defending the snake - I'm sorry, I don't care WHAT kind of snake it is, if it's any where remotely close to me, I will kill it....sorry BOOTH! People like you make me really wonder what in the world people now a days are thinking!

  • Jimmy_Phillips_was_here Sep 16, 2011

    Growing up on a farm we encountered lots of snakes. If we found a venomous one, we killed it, if it wasn't, we let it go on about it's business....just the way it is. Kudos to the two young men!

  • happymom Sep 16, 2011

    Almost any other snake probably would have left the boys alone- except a cottonmouth. They can be very aggressive. My mother had to take a hoe to one that chased her up onto her back porch. She wasn't antagonizing it when it lunged toward her and she was very lucky that it didn't make contact when it struck.

    I'm all for leaving snakes alone, but, in my opinion, a cottonmouth has to be killed if it has taken notice of you. It's just too dangerous to walk away from it.