Tip/Thought of the Day

Rattlesnakes

The wildlife in the Southwest is unique and beautiful. But, with so many modern amenities available to us, we can’t overlook that we must maintain awareness of the natural surroundings. Rattlesnakes are common in the Southwest, housing 17 of 30 recognized species in the United States.

What is the ideal treatment for people, if they experience a bite from a Rattlesnake? What if a pet is bitten by a Rattlesnake? In today’s post, we’ll explore these details.

Rattle Snakes are no reason to avoid the outdoors. Awareness of their habitat and natural reactions will help prevent Rattlers from feeling threatened, to where they bite. Rattlesnakes are ectothermic, meaning they require outside sources to regulate their body temperature. This is why you’ll mostly see Rattlers emerge during warm times of the day (when the temps are between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit); they retreat underground during extreme cold or hot weather.

The rattle that gave Rattlesnakes their name is composed of segments of dry skin, which gains a new segment each time the snake sheds. One travel expert shares, “A persistent and common myth is that rattlesnakes always rattle before they strike. Don’t depend on it! A rattlesnake may rattle if given the opportunity, but nothing requires it to do so. A snake’s attempts to warn may also prove ineffective. A rattle on a juvenile snake may be too small or a rattle on a larger snake may be too badly damaged to be clearly audible.” For this reason, watch the surroundings at all times when outdoors- a Rattle Snake could be behind a trash can, planters, in landscaping, and near walking or biking paths. In the event somebody is bitten, it is vital that emergency help is sought immediately- Rattlesnake bites can be fatal. Until help arrives, here are some guidelines on how to treat the bite:

Symptoms that may be experienced after a venomous bite are:

  • severe burning pain at the site (within 15 to 30 minutes)
  • swelling and bruising at the wound and all the way up the arm or leg.
  • nausea
  • general sense of weakness
  • odd taste in the mouth

Curious and protective pets often fall victim to Rattlesnake bites. Pets that are bitten will frequently show the following symptoms:

    puncture wound or bruising at the bite site
    swelling
    weakness (particularly in the hind legs)
    difficulty walking
    labored breathing
    lethargy
    paralysis
    dilated pupils
    excessive salivation
    vomiting
    tremors
    coughing
    pale or blue gums

Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet experiences a snake bite.

In 30 years of practice I have only seen a few snake bite cases. The majority were due to carelessness- curiosity and getting too close. It’s estimated that a snake can spring from 1/2 to 3/4 of its size and even bite when it’s beheaded. Since it’s hard to gauge the size of a coiled snake, error on the side of caution and stay far back. In one case, a young woman stepped on the rattler when she took out the garbage. Another was bit when the snake was disturbed in her pool. Snakes do not want to go into a chlorinated pool; the chlorine is poisonous to them. They end up in a pool, most times when they chase prey and fall in by accident.

I have had several rattlers in my backyard. Unfortunately, they are a natural hazard of our breathtaking desert. I even stepped over one myself as I exited the backyard gate without knowing it, until I turned to re- enter! Now I carry a flashlight at all times and look down as I walk. Two of my pet dogs have been bitten. It was horrifying and frightening. Especially when one dog prevented the snake from accessing the dog door, where it could reach my daughter and the other small dog. Getting the dogs to the vet immediately for treatment saved their lives. Classes are offered every year on how to keep your pets from getting curious and too close. The Humane Society of Southern Arizona offers snake avoidance classes- check out the information here.

According to a leading pest control company you might be attracting snakes, unknowingly, if you:

• Don’t regularly mow your lawn or trim your bushes. Snakes love to hide where there is a thick cover. While you may mow the main area of your lawn, if you have sections where the grass is longer, you might find snakes. Longer grass also attracts the things snakes like to eat, like mice and other small creatures, making it an ideal feeding ground for these slithering pests.

• Feed your pets outside. Even if you keep your lawn and bushes neatly trimmed, you could be attracting snakes if you leave uncovered pet food outside. Why? Because open food attracts rodents. Rodents are the main food supply for snakes. If you feed your pets outside, make sure to pick up the food after a reasonable amount of time, so there’s no time for mice to make a dinner reservation.

• Have standing water in your backyard. Even snakes need to keep hydrated. Anything that holds standing water close to the ground, like tire swings, toys, and other areas where rain collects, will attract snakes.

Do-it-yourself snake repellant:

Still bothered by snakes, even after cleaning up your yard? Here are some simple, do-it-yourself ways of helping to keep snakes away according to a leading pest control service:

• Remind snakes humans live there. Dirty socks, hair from a brush, or anything that has your scent on it will keep snakes from moving closer, especially at night, when the main food source of snakes – mice – are active.

• Sprinkle white vinegar or ammonia around the yard area. At night, just before going to bed, sprinkle white vinegar or ammonia around the area of concern. Snakes absorb liquids through their skin and won’t cross a line of either liquid.

In the end, the best protection against snakes is to always give them a wide berth and call for help.

-Dr. Courtney

Supplemental info from:

  • Alongtheway.org
  • Mayoclinic.org

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