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Pokemon GO player bitten by venomous snake he thought was a stick

Lane Smith, 18, was bit on the right big toe by a snake while playing the popular Pokemon GO game.
Lane Smith, 18, was bit on the right big toe by a snake while playing the popular Pokemon GO game. Courtesy of Medical Center of Lewisville

A North Texas teen is recovering after being bitten by a venomous snake while playing the wildly popular and increasingly controversial Pokemon GO game in a Flower Mound park.

The injury is yet another bizarre tale associated with the treasure hunt-style video game, which can be downloaded for free and played on smartphones.

Officials at many public buildings are trying to warn gamers that they’re wandering into dangerous areas. At least two Dallas-Fort Worth area hospitals have asked Pokemon players — or “Pokemon trainers” as they’re called in the game — to stop loitering around their helicopter landing pads in search of Pokemon creatures, saying their presence could pose a danger for incoming medical emergency flights.

But the snake bite was a clear case of someone not watching where he was walking, officials said.

I don’t think mom thought it was so funny.

CeCe Clemens, Medical Center of Lewisville

Lane Smith, 18, was playing Pokemon GO with a friend at Flower Mound’s Parker Square on Tuesday when they noticed on their cellphone video screens that there was a “Pokestation or Pokestop” — a place where it’s easier to catch the prizes — at a nearby park. Pokemon GO uses the camera features on smartphones to superimpose images of Pokemons in real-world settings, and encourages players to follow routes that mimic real-life GPS road mapping to seek and capture the colorful characters.

On a walkway to get to the park, Smith was paying more attention to his game than to his surroundings, the teens told authorities. Smith’s friend noticed the snake — believed to be a copperhead — but didn’t have time to warn Smith, who was wearing flip-flops and stepped on it.

Smith said he saw something on the walkway in his peripheral vision and thought he was perhaps stepping on a stick — until it bit him on the right big toe, according to a hospital employee who interviewed him.

The skin surrounding the bite mark initially had signs of redness and swelling that can indicate at least a small amount of venom had penetrated the skin, officials said.

Pokemon and its lead character, Pikachu, is quickly regaining the popularity it had years when it captivated youth using trading cards, cartoons, movies and video games.

Smith called him mom and told her about the wound, and she directed him to come home right away. The mom took Smith to Flower Mound Emergency Center, where it was determined he needed to be transferred to nearby Medical Center of Lewisville.

During the ensuing ambulance ride — his first — Smith chatted with paramedics about the freak injury.

“It was funny listening to him talk about how EMS guessed he was bit playing the game, and chatted with him about it,” said medical center spokeswoman CeCe Clemens, who visited Smith in the hospital Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think mom thought it was so funny.”

Only one of the snake’s fangs broke the skin, and doctors determined he didn’t need anti-venom, Clemens said. He was released Wednesday afternoon.

Smith and his family members declined to be interviewed Wednesday night, saying they were tired after their ordeal, which began Tuesday night, and wanted to go home. But they did give the hospital permission to release details of the incident.

Unwelcome on helipads

At two other hospitals, officials are sternly warning Pokemon players to stay away from their helipads, which must remain clear so medical workers can quickly move patients from aircraft to a hospital room, often during crises in which every second counts.

Helipads at both Denton Regional Medical Center and Medical Center of McKinney have somehow wound up being “Pokemon hot spots,” spokeswoman Janet St. James said.

“We’ve had folks wandering around it, gathering points,” St. James said. “We would like to warn folks of this danger. Certain areas of hospitals just aren’t appropriate spots to earn Pokemon points. Both are advanced level trauma centers and these helipads are critically important to saving lives.”

The new app Pokemon Go is attracting people all over the nation, including Raleigh, North Carolina residents. Some players were gathered in Nash Square in downtown Raleigh on the morning of July 11, and explained how to play the game. Nintendo's

Nationally, some institutions, including the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., are asking company behind Pokemon Go to not use their properties in the game.

Motorists are being reminded not to play the game while driving and after a few instances of gamers being targeted by robbers, authorities are warning people to be extra alert while playing.

Certain areas of hospitals just aren’t appropriate spots to earn Pokemon points.

Janet St. James, Hospital Corp. of America

The New York Police Department even went as far to issue a list of safety tips for Pokemon Go, including:

▪ Do not drive or ride you bike, skateboard, or other device while interacting with the app.

▪ Do not trespass on private property ...

▪ Be aware and tell your kids about “stranger danger.”

Outdoors fun

Despite the potential for Pokemon GO players to go places they shouldn’t be, parks officials in many North Texas cities are enjoying the large crowds playing the game in open spaces.

In Keller, city officials are encouraging players to submit pictures of the Pokemon creatures to a municipal photo album.

Nintendo stock has jumped nearly 17 percent in value since the company’s Pokemon GO game was released July 6.

“I love all the ones showing players posing with the Pokemon, whether it's kids holding them or one of our local business owners looking concerned about the Pidgey in his store,” Keller spokeswoman Rachel Reynolds said. “It's been incredible to see how many people are out playing, in the Texas heat, in our parks and around Keller Town Center. We had a citizen take a photo of people near Town Hall the other day and said she'd encountered eight groups playing in the time she'd been there.”

But even as these Pokemon trainers enjoy the outdoors, it’s always a good idea to watch for snakes.

And mosquitoes — which, like Pokemons — are everywhere.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson

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