Wal-Mart customer bitten by rattlesnake hiding in plants

A shopper looking for a deal in the garden department of a South Florida Wal-Mart found more than he bargained for when he startled a poisonous pygmy rattlesnake hiding in some plants.

The foot-long rattler jumped out and bit him, striking his right hand in between his thumb and index finger.

The man was rushed from the store in Pembroke Pines, northwest of Miami, to Memorial Hospital Miramar where he received an intravenous antidote from the antivenin unit with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

''[The bite] wouldn't have been been fatal with an adult male. But you could lose a finger,'' said Capt. Ernie Jillson, an officer with the antivenin unit. The painful bite of a pygmy rattler can be fatal for an elderly person or a young child, he said.

Pygmy rattlesnakes grow to be between 18 and 24 inches long and have a small rattle: ''It sounds like a bee buzzing so there's not a lot of warning,'' Jillson said. Wal-Mart said it contacted emergency services immediately after the shopper was bitten and is working with authorities in the investigation, said Daphne Moore, a spokeswoman with the company.

''This is clearly an isolated situation. Customer safety is always a priority,'' Moore said.

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