A cell phone photo shows the rattlesnake that bit the Little Egg Harbor man Thursday evening.
"The only reason I knew I was bit was because the second I looked down, blood was pouring off me," he told Action News.
Drinkwater was driving with his mother, Donna Drinkwater, and a friend on Route 679 in Tuckerton, N.J. when they spotted the big snake right on the road.
Concerned it might get hit by a car, Donna said, "We hit the brakes, and we stopped to get the snake off the road. I grabbed a very long stick to do so, seeing that it was a rattlesnake."
But Nelson did more than just move the snake.
"He was poking it with a stick," said Nelson's friend Tom Pharo. "And he picked it up with the stick. Then he decided to grab it with his hands. He said, 'Take a picture.' Before we could get a picture, it bit him."
Drinkwater started to feel the effects of the venom right away. They drove him to the Park Ranger station at Bass River State Forest and he was airlifted to Atlanticare Regional Medical Center. He is in pain, but expected to make a full recovery.
"I don't blame the animal," he said. "I would be very upset if anything happened to that animal down. It was defending itself."
The timber rattlesnake, like one on display at the Philadelphia Zoo, is an endangered species known to inhabit that area of South Jersey. If you see one, take Nelson Drinkwater's advice, and the advice of experts: keep clear.
"Truly, I would call somebody else," Drinkwater told Action News. "Call a professional. Don't do it yourself."