Great State: The Snake Lady’s Last Hunt

ADA, Okla. — It’s not like Nancy Duncan to work at a puzzle in springtime. Not when the flower beds bloom, the garden grows, and the snakes rattle. “This is the hard part,” she says. “But I’ll be back in the saddle before you know it.” But here she sits in her house near Ada. It’s been 3 weeks now, healing up from a snake hunting trip that went horribly wrong. She says, “I just told someone a month ago. I guess I’m an adrenaline junkie. That’s my drug of choice.”

She was with her husband and son. “We’d been out about 30 minutes,” she recalls. They found a good den. In 30 years of hunting snakes she’d never had one come right at her. “I got the catcher on him but he was moving pretty fast.” She’d never had one that struck so high. “I knew immediately that he got me.” One fang just above her snake proof boots penetrated the skin. “Your boots couldn’t be any higher,” says a visitor. Nancy says, “I need some kind of body armor.”

Duncan never panicked. She and her family drove to the hospital. It was there she found out about being allergic to the antivenom. “Within 3 to 5 minutes I’d gone into shock,” she recalls. The swelling is down but she’s still limping. Her pride is a little wounded too since her family and friends are begging her to hang up the snake catcher. “Well,” she says. “I’ve wanted to go alligator hunting for years.”

But what to do. She still has the snake that bit her. It was a big one, a 5 footer, and she has more than 20 in a box in her garage. She’s still drawn to them. “I’ve always had a healthy respect but much more so now,” she says.

Nancy would put her snake hunting boots back on tomorrow if no one else cared, but the hunter known locally as the ‘snake lady’ has likely made her last catch. While we were visiting she took a call from her father who made her promise to quit. “I love you too Daddy,” she said before getting back to her puzzle. Puzzles aren’t nearly as exciting but they don’t bit either.