ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A Nixa, Mo., man died after being bitten on both legs by a venomous cottonmouth snake as he waded into the James River in Southwest Missouri.

That’s just one of five fatal snake bites in Missouri since 2010.

Dan Zarlenga, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says the state has five species of poisonous snakes, and three of them are in the St. Louis area.

“The copperhead, which is the most common, the timber rattlesnake, and then finally there’s the cottonmouth, which occurs more south of St. Louis and more in and along rivers and streams,” Zarlenga says. “The timber rattlesnake and the cottonmouth are capable of delivering fatal amounts of venom.”

What’s the biggest defense a person has when they encounter a snake?

“Just leaving them alone is probably the biggest defense you have to not getting bit by a snake,” Zarlenga says. “If you’re on the rivers where you might possibly see cottonmouths, you can usually see its entire body on the surface typically. Where as a non-venomous snake will often times have the head above water, you won’t see the whole body.”

Should you ever be bitten by a snake, Zarlenga advises to seek medical help quickly to get anti-venom serum.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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