AUSTIN (KXAN) — “When you’re hiking in snake country, Chaco sandals, any type of sandals or flip flops are not what you want to be wearing.” Jay Middleton said. He learned that lesson the hard way while recently visiting Austin from Denver.

Jay is just one of the 353 people bitten by a snake in Texas this year, according to the Texas Poison Center Network. “We were supposed to do a bike ride that morning.”

Jay and his wife were hiking on July 31 in northwest Austin when Jay was bitten.

“I sort of look back to say something to my wife and I felt a sting on my foot,” Jay said. “I turned to say something to my wife about it and she’s like, ‘Oh look, a snake.’ And I’m like, ‘I know. It’s a Copperhead. It just bit me.'”

Snake sightings have been on the rise recently, likely a result of this summer’s wet weather, according to veterinarians. This year, eight snakebites have occurred in Williamson County, two in Hays County and 12 in Travis County. However last year, there were significantly more bites. Texas Poison Center Network reported 520 bites in 2020.

“It’s always something to worry about in Central Texas, kind of from spring through fall event,” said Kristen Hullum, St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center trauma injury prevention coordinator. She says there are some steps you can take if you get bit, but the most important one is to remain calm and call for an ambulance.

“We don’t want to get your heart rate up ” she said. “We don’t want to be moving and circulating your blood because that just circulates the venom.”

According to Hullum, snake venom can cause serious damage to your kidneys and heart if it circulates through your blood. On top of that, venom can break down the tissue around the bite. You could lose skin and muscle if enough venom gets injected. If you do get bit, antivenom may be required to prevent damage to your organs. Keep in mind, antivenom is very expensive.

“It’s kind of hard to say be calm when you’ve been bitten by a snake,” Jay said. “But I’ve been practicing meditation this entire year, and my wife’s like, ‘You should try meditating.'” Luckily for Jay, the venom did not spread. First responders were able to reach him on the trail and take him to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center for treatment.

The bite still caused serious damage.

“My entire foot looked like a giant sausage, like I couldn’t even get a finger between my toes,” Jay said. “They were so, so swollen.”

Jay spent several weeks on crutches and is just now starting to recover.

“Easily one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve been hit by a car on my bike. I’ve broken numerous bones… I thought I knew pain until I got bit by this snake.”

Despite the encounter, Jay said he’ll return to Austin in the future.

“I love Austin and it’s a beautiful city, and I’ll be back with the proper hiking shoes.”