Local News

Children kill dangerous snake at Lake Gaston

Posted September 16, 2011 5:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2011 6:48 p.m. EDT

— 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. 

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.