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Volume XXI Number 11 August 18, 2000

HEADLINES
* Snake Handler Bitten By Rattler
* Desiree Jumper, Jo Jo Osceola Millennium Princesses 2000-2001
* Tiffany Doctor: Lady Bull Rider
* Seminole/Bahamian Cultural Exchange
* Seminoles, Eckerd College Announce DNA 2001 Powwow, Festival
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Snake Handler Bitten By Rattler

By Colin Kenny

HOLLYWOOD - One can never be too careful when working around the dangerous snakes at the Native Village. Just ask wildlife guide Sean Trybala.

Trybala, 20, learned a lesson Aug. 2, at about 11:10 a.m., while showing preschoolers a baby Western Diamond-back rattlesnake at the Native Village here on the Hollywood Reservation.

As Trybala sat in front of the toddlers, on his lap he held a wooden snake cage. With glass on one side, the children could see the three-foot long snake while the wire mesh covering the top allowed the reptile to breathe. While looking up at the children, he inadvertently rested his hand on the wire mesh cover.

"I looked up and set my hand on top of the cage," says Trybala, "When I looked up - he nailed me."

The viper's fangs went through the mesh covering and struck Trybala's left hand. Within seconds after the snakebite, Trybala says he felt the unforgiving pain, which he describes as a "mixture between a stabbing and a burning - like I got hit with a sledgehammer all at the same time."

Trybala, was taken to Hollywood Regional Memorial Hospital where paramedic Al Cruz of the Miami-Dade Anti-Venom Unit gave him twenty vials of anti-venom.

"If it wasn't for him (Cruz), I probably would have lost my hand," Trybala said. Trybala spent three days in the hospital's intensive care unit and was released on Aug. 7.

According to Dr. Richard Weisman of the Florida Poison Information Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, there are between 25 to 50 poisonous snakebites reported each year in South Florida alone. Weisman's estimate includes both snakes in the wild and those in captivity. About half of these "envenomations" are attributed to rattlesnakes, a third to coral snakes, and the rest "are everything under the sun," says Weisman.

According to Native Village wildlife educator Lynn Fenimore, the baby or "juvenile" western diamondback's bite is more dangerous than that of the adult rattler.

"Just because it's juvenile doesn't mean it has less potency -- it has more potency," says Fenimore. "About four to ten times."

Trybala has been handling poisonous snakes, alligators and panthers at the Native Village for four years, ever since he dropped out of high school and walked into the Village looking for a job.

"I got bit by a 'gator before James did," he says referring to Seminole Tribal Chairman James Billie who lost his finger to an alligator back in February.

Trybala also joins Gator John Kenyon of the Billie Swamp Safari as a snakebite victim. Kenyon was bitten by a Southern copperhead on June 5.

Trybala is now back working at the Native Village. He expects to make a full and complete recovery, but says he has learned from the experience.

"I'm going to be a little bit more cautious," he says. "I won't let myself get distracted. But, in this business, sooner or later you're gonna get bit."

He pauses than adds, "It's not if you get bit . . . it's when."

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