Dry bite

A bite from a venomous snake that does not inject any venom is called a “dry bite.” Sometimes a venomous snake withholds its venom when it bites in self-defence, saving it for prey — venom is primarily a means of subduing and pre-digesting prey, and only secondarily a self-defence mechanism.

Someone who receives a “dry bite” is called a “lucky bastard” — and that certainly applies to the unnamed 26-year-old Barrie, Ontario man who received a dry bite on Tuesday from a friend’s saw-scaled viper, which he had reportedly been poking at. Indian River Reptile Zoo curator Bry Loyst, who manages the Ontario Antivenin Bank, was rushed to the hospital in Barrie with some antivenin as a precaution. See news coverage from the Barrie Examiner, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.

Saw-scaled vipers, which range from Africa to India, are both extremely irascible and extremely toxic: they kill a lot more people than some of the more glamorous snakes in their region, like cobras, if not more than any other species on the planet. You may remember the incident six years ago with the guy in Toronto whose venomous snake got loose, generating national headlines? Same species.