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Snake bites Florida grandfather trying to protect grandson

Posted: 1:20 PM, Jun 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-20 17:23:51Z

CALLAHAN, Fla. -- Three-year-old Shelton Dawkins was picking berries with his grandfather Thatcher Nightingale when Shelton discovered a slithering threat. 

"He was like, 'poppa snake. Poppa snake.' " Shelton's dad Thatcher Dawkins recalled.

But it wasn't a harmless garden snake. It was a small venomous pygmy rattlesnake.  

Fearing the snake would strike the child, grandad took action by jumping between his grandson and the snake. 

"He interfered with it and took the bite instead of my son," the boy's dad said.

The 43-year old grandad was bitten on his finger. The venom traveled from his finger to his arm attacking his nervous system and causing excruciating pain in his chest.

"He said he couldn't imagine Shelton going through that pain because even for a grown man his size, it was still curling him up," said Dawkins.

Pygmy rattlesnakes are small venomous pit vipers that grow between 15 and 24 inches long. 

They have small fangs but those small fangs can deliver venom potent enough to body damage tissue and in some cases cause death. 

Immediately after the snake bit Nightingale, his son managed to kill the snake, bag it and take it to the hospital so that doctors knew what they were dealing with. 

Nightingale's son says his father is alert but still being monitored in ICU.

He says doctors expect him to make a full recovery.