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Warning, vipers! The number of those affected by snake bites in St. Petersburg is growing


The Red Book of endangered species in St. Petersburg has been re-printed in a new version. The authorities are now protecting 247 types of plant and 186 species of animals living in the city.


Several types of mushrooms – pale toadstool included – certain algae and moss, Atlantic sturgeon – in the waters – and usual water-snakes and vipers in forests. All those are now considered endangered. Residents of St. Petersburg have been unlucky to meet the latter. Those turn aggressive with heat and it often leads to hospitalization. Alexandra Lee found out how dangerous a snake bite is and how one should behave upon encountering one.

Alexandra Lee, reporter: “When going for outdoor time out of town, St. Petersburg residents have already got used to wearing clothes which would protect them from vipers. You wont go into a forest like that of course. But few actually think that they could encounter snakes within city limits. However, during this summer there have been 7 cases of viper attacks – and all happened either in the city or at dachas” 

All injured are delivered to Djanelidze Research Institute. There are two people now in the toxicology department – a man and a woman. 

On July 24th, Alexander was spending time with his family by the Krasnyi pond at Lomonosov. It was hot and he was bare-footed. He didn’t see a viper lurking in tall grass.

Alexander, injured: “Stepped on it. There was a sharp sting and I saw something black, like a furball, crawling away. In 5 minutes I started feeling bad. And asked to call ambulance. The leg was swollen, I could not step on it, head was dizzy. Almost lost consciousness”

On July 25th Alexander was brought to the hospital in severe condition

Georgiy Livanov, head of toxicology department at Dzhanelidze research institute: “His leg was a scary sight – it was twice bigger than the other, healthy leg”

Now his condition is medium severe, but it will take more time to rehab from the bite. Doctors at the toxicology department say that the most important thing is to call an ambulance straight away – its almost impossible to help out the bitten before doctors arrive. And it’s not good to attempt to suck out the poison. Head of department – with 20 years of experience – says that even in hospital it might be problematic to inject an antidote.

Georgiy Livanov, head of toxicology department at Dzhanelidze research institute: “It becomes particularly severe when a serum is injected, even if its made for particular species. That is for a particular type of cobras or vipers. That’s because people are immunized nowadays”

Statistics of the bites doesn’t really change every year – around 20 people every summer. The other thing is scary, though – there are more and more bites within the city’s limits. Last year there were two cases of cobra bites. Exotic animals are taken into ordinary apartments, while those are not being kept even at Zoos – for safety reasons.

Even a new-born and non-poisonous whip snake bites the hand which feeds it. But the hand can take it – after all its not the snake’s fault. Snakes are actually friendly and harmless, say experts. Their attacks are merely how they react to threat. It’s the people’s – and the heat’s – fault that people get bitten and go to hospitals.

Olga Golubeva, Leningrad Zoo: “The speed of reaction depends on the weather – if its raining, we would not even see them. Now – during this heat – they are more active. They may even show fake attacks while we approach them”

Snakes are deaf and almost blind – protective veil on their eyes hinders their eyesight. But they are very sensitive to vibrations. That’s why the best way to make it retreat is to bang feet on the ground. Thick, tall shoes and thick pants may protect from an attack. And the most important advice – watch what you’re stepping on.