Last week, a nationally famous snake researcher died after being bitten by the kind of snake he had spent his whole life researching.
William H. ‘Marty’ Martin, 80, was murdered on his farm near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, after being bitten by a wood rattler. Martin would routinely go into the mountains and visit distant spots to chronicle and count the snakes’ behavior.
The manager of the Bull Run Mountains Preserve, Joe Villari, indicated he would join Martin on his outings and praised his passion and vigor.
‘He was in his 80s and he was difficult to keep up with,’ Villari recalled.
Martin was hailed as “the ambassador of rattlesnakes” in a Terrain.com feature in 2019.
Martin was an advocate for snake conservation and worked to reduce the stigma associated with them in addition to researching them.
He told the Baltimore Sun in 1993 that “there was a period when scientists defined creatures as good or dangerous to man.”
Timber rattlers, also known as timber rattlesnakes, are one of the most hazardous snakes in the nation because to its lethal venom, long fangs, and massive size.
They are one of around 30 poisonous species found in the United States, ranging from Texas to New England.
Villari claims that the snakes avoid human contact wherever possible, even when they are unintentionally stomped on.
‘They store their poison for their victim,’ Villari said.
Snakebites are very rare in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating that five people die from them each year, despite the fact that over 3,000 are recorded each year.
Martin was known for his abilities to detect the reptiles and undertake field work, according to John Sealy, a rattlesnake researcher from Stokesdale, North Carolina.
‘They’re really secretive creatures,’ Sealy remarked.
Martin has researched snakes since he was a child, and he even discovered a previously unknown colony of snakes, getting a herpetologist to follow him and verify the finding.
Before Martin died last Wednesday, Sealy had known him for 30 years. Martin had previously been bitten by snakes but had recovered.
A second snakebite may be more deadly to a person, according to Dan Keyler, a toxicology professor at the University of Minnesota and an authority in snakebites.
He said that rattlesnakes become more harmful as they grow in size because they can inject more venom, and that elderly humans may be more vulnerable when bitten by a snake.