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Last Snakebite Death


One hundred years have passed since the last death from a snakebite in North Dakota on this date in 1915. Four-year-old Helen Moomey was bitten by a rattlesnake while playing with friends near her house in rural Slope County. Her parents called a neighbor from the closest ranch over a mile away, and he drove Helen and her parents to Marmarth for a doctor.

The town was 15 miles away on poor roads. Over three hours passed before Helen reached Dr. Frederick Bordwell in Marmarth. Despite his best care, the girl died the morning after being bitten and was buried the next day.

Two years earlier, in 1913, were the next most recent deaths in the state. Two brothers, ages 6 and 7, were killed on their rural homestead near Beach. After going to bed, the boys had complained that each had pinched the other, but they remained quiet afterwards. In the morning, their mother found them dead, with a rattler coiled in the quilts.

Although seven to eight thousand snakebites occur each year in the U-S, an average of only six people die. Most victims, like Helen Moomey, die because they didn’t receive proper treatment in time.

Eight species of snakes are found in North Dakota, from garter snakes to the prairie rattlesnake.

First aid for a venomous bite includes keeping the person still with the bitten area below the heart, moving them to safety, and removing any jewelry or tight-fitting clothing around the bite area. Most importantly, keeping the person calm and getting medical help.

A number of other so-called remedies should be avoided -- suction devices, ice, tourniquets, and cutting the bite open. The approved medical treatment includes an anti-venom injection, preferably four to six hours after the bite.

Rattlesnakes are not as common in North Dakota these days, though a Medora golfer was bitten twice by a rattlesnake this July. Preventing snakebites is relatively easy—just watch where you’re walking and use common sense.

Dakota Datebook written by Jack Dura


Kessler, A. (2015, July 23). Golfer bit twice by rattlesnake at bully pulpit in Medora. The Forum. Retrieved from: www. inforum.com/sports/3803198-golfer-bit-twice-rattlesnake-bully-pulpit-medora

RelayHealth. (2013). Snakebite. CRS Adult Health Advisor.

(1915, Sept. 24). Little girl is mortally bitten by a rattlesnake. The Marmarth Mail. 8 (42). Retrieved from:

"http://www.files.usgwarchives.net/nd/slope/newspaper/marmail/1913-5.txt" www.files.usgwarchives.net/nd/slope/newspaper/marmail/1913-5.txt .

(1913, June 25). Rattlesnake in bed with corpses. Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved from:

"http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/71278667/" www.newspapers.com/newspage/71278667/