WEST BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island man who was airlifted to a hospital after one of his venomous snakes bit him at his home said Tuesday that he’s “lucky to be alive.”

Richard Downing, 33, returned to his home Tuesday morning on Salem Avenue in West Babylon after spending the night in the hospital.

“Just one prick,” he told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “My own stupidity.”

Downing was bitten by an Egyptian Saw-Scaled Viper on his middle finger as he was feeding it crickets around 11:30 p.m. Monday. Bites from that snake can cause moderate to severe envenoming and can be life-threatening if not treated swiftly.

“I got within strike range, which I never should have been,” he said. “And as soon as the cricket jumped out of my hand, she struck.”

A Suffolk County police helicopter airlifted him to a hospital in the Bronx.

The snake, which is illegal in New York, is typically found in semi-deserts and dry savannas in Africa and the Middle East.

“They’re very small,” Suffolk County SPCA Chief Roy Gross said. “They’re only maybe a foot long, but deadly.”

“It’s known to be one of the most deadly snakes in at least Africa, if not the entire world,” Dr. Vincent Nguyen, Jacobi Medical Center, added.

As CBS2’s Steve Langford reported, the snake wasn’t the only dangerous reptile that was found.

Police did a search of his West Babylon home and found five other venomous snakes, including a Monocled Cobra and two rattlesnakes, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

One by one Tuesday morning, SPCA officers brought Downing’s six venomous snakes out of his basement in covered cases.

SPCA officials say far too often, they come across people keeping exotic reptiles as pets. In fact, they were planning to hand out fliers Tuesday advertising amnesty to owners as an incentive to get them out of private homes.

“This a perfect example of somebody who could have died from this,” Gross said.

Downing says he has 15 years of experience working in exotic pet shops, but many of his neighbors had no idea that he had the snakes and a number of other reptiles in his possession.

“Nerve-wracking,” one neighbor said. “I have small kids right next door.”

“I know they’re not going to be happy with me,” Downing said of his neighbors. “I’m the one that suffered the consequences and that’s the bottom line.”

The SPCA said the confiscated snakes will be checked out and eventually will be taken to a wildlife reserve in Massachusetts. It’s not clear if Downing will face any charges.

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Comments (2)
  1. Rich says:

    “It’s known to be one of the most deadly snakes in at least Africa, if not the entire world,” Dr. Vincent Nguyen, Jacobi Medical Center, added. Doc ought to get his facts straight. This species doesn’t even make the top 10 most venomous.

  2. Kate says:

    No, Mr. Downing, trying to play the “stupidity” card DOES NOT absolve you of your sins. Since you have worked in shops with exotic animals, you darn well should have been aware that you need a special license to have a number of creatures great and small. Over time, there have been several occasions when the ASPCA has had amnesty days for people to turn in their illegal “pets.” Your selfishness is beyond belief. Hope there is a hefty fine, whether or not charges are filed against you. I do hope you are shunned by the neighbors.

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