MIAMI (CBS4) – Dealing with deadly venomous snakes, cranky gators and aggressive iguanas are all in a day’s work for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Venom One response team.
It’s this activity that landed the team on the new television series Swamp Wars, which will premiere June 12th, on Animal Planet. According to the network, the show follows the “the intensity and urgency of their daily clash with nature as this courageous team takes down killer snakes, rushes against the clock to deliver anti-venoms and ultimately saves lives.”
In addition to being some of reality television’s newest ‘stars’, the Venom One unit is only emergency response team of its kind and it currently holds the largest and only anti-venom bank available for public use in the United States.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, the unit was called to help a woman who had been bitten by a water moccasin; she received 18 vials of anti-venom.
Earlier in May, the team came to the assistance of a 14-year old Loxahatchee boy who had been bitten by and eastern diamondback rattlesnake; the deadliest snake in the U.S.
“Every house has a snake somewhere hidden,” said the Venom Unit’s Captain Al Cruz. “April to October is when we get out snakes bites throughout the nation. But here in South Florida we get them year round because it’s not cold enough to keep snakes away.”
The swampy Everglades are perfect breeding grounds for many of these reptiles. There are an estimated five to ten thousand Burmese pythons in the glades; each can grow up to 20 feet long.
“Miami-Dade venom unit responded to over 100 python calls last year alone,” Cruz said.
Before the Miami Dade Venom Unit there was no specific agency to help snake bite victims.
“Prior to the existence of Venom One it took 15 to 20 different agencies to save someone’s life,” Cruz said.
With over 100 snake bites reported each year in South Florida it can be literally a ‘life or death’ if you are bitten.
“The most important thing to do is kind of difficult; it is to remain calm and call 911. The venom moves quicker through the system when you are agitated,” said Cruz.
Cruz said never apply ice to a bite and keep the bite site immobilized. In the 12 years since Venom One has been in operation, Cruz said they’ve never had a fatal snake bite.