DEL NORTE, Colo. (CBS4) – When Tres Brinkley felt a sharp pain in his leg while trail running he first thought it was cactus, but quickly realized he had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He was exploring trails just outside of downtown Del Norte when it happened.
“It’s the last thing on my mind if I’m going to see a rattlesnake,” Brinkley told CBS4 by phone Monday.
Ten days out from his bite, he continues to heal after spending five days in the hospital.
“I can’t walk without crutches still,” Brinkley said.
The big push to draw outdoor enthusiasts to this area is paying off with new breweries, a boutique hotel and new families moving into the economically depressed area. Now, a lot of visitors are looking for open trails and the wild that comes along with that, but there’s a dangerous side effect.
Marty Asplin is the co-director of Upper Rio Grande Economic Development. He is also one of the people behind the push to build single-track trails and draw more visitors.
“This is the Wild West out here. This is real America. This is everything that is not urban,” Asplin said.
There are now miles of singletrack trails that draw mountain bikers and hikers from across the country to the rocky terrain, but it also also prime rattlesnake habitat. With more people venturing out means more people encountering the venomous snakes.
“It’s one of those things we always worry about,” Rio Grande Hospital CEO Arlene Harms said.
At the small, rural hospital they stock a small amount of anti-venom needed to treat snakebites, but are not set up to fully handle these difficult cases.
“I will always want them to go to a higher level of care if they’ve had a rattlesnake bite because there’s so many things and antiviral that will do that we’re not prepared to take care of,” Harms said.
For Brinkley, that meant an emergency plane ride to Durango where they have specialists on staff. On his painful road to recovery, he warns people heading out to be extra careful while exploring in rattlesnake country.
Experts say about 20 percent of snake bites are actually dry bites where the snake doesn’t actually release any venom. In those cases, bite victims are treated at the hospital in Del Norte.
LINK: More About Rattlesnakes