updated 10/24/2005 6:52:10 AM ET 2005-10-24T10:52:10

A 14-year-old girl may lose her arm after being bitten by a poisonous copperhead snake at school, authorities said.

The snake was caught in Valley Forge by a 17-year-old male student, who took it in a shoebox to a drama club gathering at St. Pius X High School on Friday, Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Ray Bechtel said. No regular classes were held that day, which was designated for staff development.

The boy was showing the reptile to other students when it bit the girl’s finger, Bechtel said.

The girl, whose name was not released by police, apparently threw the snake across the room and the boy threw it outside. The snake was not found, but authorities were able to identify it because the boy photographed it with his camera cellphone, said Bechtel.

Just in time
The victim was treated at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center about 45 minutes after being bitten, he said.

“The doctors said if it had been a half-hour longer she would likely have been dead,” said Bechtel.

However, police said she could still lose her arm.

Police did not have an update on the girl’s condition Sunday. She had been in very serious condition at Hershey Medical Center.

No charges were filed but police said they were investigating.

Copperhead snake bites are typically not fatal but are extremely painful and may cause extensive scarring and loss of limb use, according to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension of North Carolina State University.

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