ENGLEWOOD — Sammie Varela was still healing Friday from the pygmy rattlesnake bite he suffered Tuesday.
His right forearm was still a bit swollen and he was still experiencing pain from the snake bite.
The 47-year-old Varela was looking for a specific wrench he thought he left in his Smart Car. The tiny car is not in running condition and parked along side of his Sammie’s Kustom Detailing Garage on South McCall Road.
The wrench with a screwdriver he also wanted were both on the passenger seat of the car. A large box sits on the floor on that side of vehicle. As he reached for the tools, he knocked one of them under the passenger seat. Then he reached under the seat.
“(The snake) got me once, but I didn’t feel it,” Varela said. “But then, I reached down and came up, he was hanging from my arm. Then I said, ‘This is unreal, unreal. You got to be kidding me, man.’
“What was the chance of that happening to me?” he asked.
After a quick call to 911, Charlotte County EMS took Varela to Englewood Community Hospital where he was treated for the bite.
“They said it was a ‘dry’ bite,” he said, a bite which didn’t inject venom into his arm.
Wildlife officials describe the bite of pygmy rattlers as painful, but the bite is not generally life-threatening to humans or most pets. However, bites can be more serious for small children and small pets.
Pygmy, or pigmy, rattlesnakes can grow to only one or two feet. They’re found throughout Florida, even on barrier islands, according to the Florida Fish and Game Conservation Commission. They are generally not an aggressive species.
Varela still doesn’t know how or where the snake got into the car.
“I can’t imagine where it would come from around here,” he said. “There’s too much activity.
Unlucky with snakes?
The pygmy rattler wasn’t the first snake bite Varela experienced.
He’s been bitten on three prior occasions.
Several years ago, living in El Jobean near the Myakka River, Varela said a diamondback rattlesnake — a far deadlier venomous snake species — bit him above his left wrist.
“It was between a washer and a dryer,” Varela said. “I was replacing the dryer.”
At the time, he suspected construction of nearby condominiums might have flushed out a nest of rattlers.
“Those three (bites) happened within a year — and then we moved,” said Varela, who is now living in Port Charlotte.
“A doctor said I am a lucky guy because they bite me, but (the snakes) don’t want to kill me.”