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Hiker escapes from group of rattlesnakes in national forest

Warmer weather is here and that means snakes are out of hibernation, so people are cautioned to watch out for them.

NATURAL DAM, Ark. — A local man says he stumbled into a wooded area full of rattlesnakes while out on a hike. He says he took a tumble trying to get away.  

“It was pretty scary,” Stephen Gossow. “It was unexpected, and it happened so fast.” 

Stephen Gossow and his dog were out on a hike north of Natural Dam at the Ozark St. Francis National Forest to celebrate his birthday on Monday (March 8) when he says they encountered rattlesnakes on a bluff.  

“Basically, out of nowhere, I spotted some diamondback rattlesnakes, a whole bunch of them in one group, and we froze, and I took some pictures, and my dog was kind of freaking out,” he said. 

He says the snakes started moving around, so he picked up his dog and started to get out of harm’s way. 

“We were walking backward, and I turned around to a tree, and I just happened to look straight down, and there was another one right beside my foot, so all I could do with my dog was jump forward, and we went rolling down the hill,” he said.  

Gossow has cuts on his neck and hand, and his dog got a bloody nose. Even though he is an avid outdoorsman, he says he will wait a little longer before heading back into the woods.  

“I see snakes all the time,” he said. “You are just never ready for when it’s going to be there, all of a sudden there and everything happened fast. They started moving fast, there were a bunch of them, and the only thing I could do was jump forward and roll down the hill, and it worked out better than a snake bite.”

Kendra Ingle with the Janet Huckabee River Valley Nature Center says it’s not very common to see this many snakes together. Fortunately for Gossow, the snakes didn’t bite him, but she tells us what to do if you are bit by a venomous snake. 

“It’s best to try and remain calm to keep your heart rate down as much as possible. Most of the time, it’s a dry bite where venom is not actually injected into the person, but you want to make sure you remain calm, and you do get to a hospital to get checked out,” she said. 

Gossow’s biggest piece of advice from his snake encounter is always letting someone know where you are going when hiking. He says he didn’t this last trip, but thankfully he was able to walk out of there on his own.

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