A teenager is lucky to be alive after being bitten on the face by a deadly snake he was attempting to “kiss”.
Austin Hatfield had captured the 4ft-long water moccasin while swimming last week in Wimauma, Florida, ClickOrlando reports.
Having adopted the reptile as a pet, the 18-year-old was bitten on the lip at the weekend as he tried to perform his party trick in front of friends.
He had reportedly been keeping it in a pillowcase.
Hatfield’s friend James Belcher told WESH: “We (were) sitting in the kitchen and he ran out of the room saying: ‘Hospital, hospital, now, now.’”
The snake, which is a dangerous variety of pit viper, left Hatfield in “pretty bad shape”, Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesman Gary Morse told the New York Daily News.
He said: “His face is pretty swollen up. When it’s [the snake] captured, it’s one thing to keep the animal in a pillowcase temporarily, but not permanently.”
Morse added the teen, who was keeping the snake illegally and without the proper permits or cage, will now be investigated.
The water moccasin is America’s only venomous water snake, Live Science writes.
Sara Viernum, a herpetologist based in Madison, Wisconsin, tells the channel their venom is potent and can be fatal.
She said: “Cottonmouth venom is composed mainly of hemotoxins that break down blood cells, preventing the blood from clotting or coagulating.
"Envenomation from a cottonmouth can lead to temporary and/or permanent tissue and muscle damage; loss of an extremity, depending on the location of the bite; internal bleeding; and extreme pain around the injection area."
Wildlife officials say Hatfield is lucky to be alive.