'You don't mess with snakes,' wife says after rattler kills husband on birthday trip

A man was rushed to the hospital after a rattlesnake fell into his kayak and bit him twice.
A man was rushed to the hospital after a rattlesnake fell into his kayak and bit him twice. The Wichita Eagle

An Oklahoma man was celebrating his 57th birthday in the outdoors when he did what he's done so many times before — he saw a snake, pinned its head and grabbed it from behind.

But this time would be different.

Experienced snake wrangler Barry Lester was driving with his wife, Roberta, to Walnut Creek in Osage County on Sunday when he saw a timber rattlesnake crossing the road, according to The Tulsa World.

He attempted to catch it, and he eventually did, according to NewsOn6 in Tulsa.

Barry Lester picked the young, 42-inch rattlesnake up, but when he did, it sunk its fangs into his skin.

First it bit his left hand, Roberta Lester told The Tulsa World. Then he put the snake in his right hand — and the snake bit him there, too.

After two bites, Barry Lester put the snake in his tool box, game warden Carlos Gomez told NewsOn6. Roberta Lewis told the newspaper he would sometimes bring snakes home to help control the mouse population, but she had no idea what his plans were for this snake.

But it was those two bites — combined with an existing heart condition — that would kill Barry Lester on his birthday.

Now, just a few days later, his wife has a message.

“My message is you don’t mess with snakes,” she said. “If you hear it rattling, you leave it alone.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 people receive a venomous bite in the U.S. each year. Of those who are bit, about five people die.

“Although death by snake bite is rare, very rare, you can get bit easily,” Gomez told NewsOn6.