Now that summer is officially upon us, it’s that time of the year when rattlesnakes grace us all with their presence. Joy!
Rattlesnakes habitats are wide and varied, ranging from British Columbia to Argentina, and everywhere in between! They are found at sea level and at 10,000 feet elevation. That means they make their homes in mountains, deserts, prairies, rural areas, and suburban settings.
I have had numerous encounters with rattlesnakes, and I have not been bitten. I owe that to being cautious, mindful, and some dumb luck. From my experience, they are not aggressive. Contrary to popular culture they don’t attack unsuspecting humans without provocation. That’s not to say that they will not bite. If provoked or threatened, they certainly will! If you see one, back off! Give it plenty of space, leave it alone, walk away, and you should have no problem with the snake.
My most recent encounter with a rattlesnake happened about a week ago. It was about 9:00 at night. I was taking some soda cans to the recycle bin in our garage. As I walked down the steps that lead into my garage, I heard that all too familiar rattle. I stepped back into the house and called my husband to come and have a listen. He took a broom and started tapping around, and sure enough the sound started again. So he began moving things about looking for the culprit responsible for that sound. And there we saw it, a medium sized rattlesnake coiled up at the foot of the steps! Upon being exposed the snake quickly retreated behind the clothes dryer, all the while rattling away, warning us to back off. My husband continued to bang around trying to get it to leave our garage, to no avail. Mr. Snake stayed right behind the dryer. We knew we could not get animal control out at that hour, we also knew we couldn’t leave it in our garage all night. So sadly, we decided the only real option was to shoot the snake with a pellet gun. We go in and out of the garage very frequently. Our dogs eat in there. If we’d have left it all night, there’s no telling where it would have hid. Nope, not safe for us or our pets. So my husband shot the creature twice. It took a few minutes to die, but when it was languishing he pushed it out of the garage with the broom, and the snake did strike and bite the broom several times before it died.
Now, we don’t like senselessly killing animals. If there was a safe and humane alternative, we would have opted for it, but really there was not.
What I have learned from my encounters with rattlesnakes is:
- They are not aggressive, however they are defensive and will strike if you mess with them.
- Their rattle is used as a “warning system” to let us know: 1. I am here. 2. You better give me space.
- Rattlesnakes can swim!
- Always wear sturdy boots when outdoors this time of year as most rattlesnake bites occur on the feet, ankles, and hands.
- Be mindful! Look where you are walking. Do not stick your hands into spaces where you do not have a visual because those are just the type of places snakes like to hang out.
- Never pick up or touch a rattlesnake you think is dead! They can still bite and inject venom after death.
- Watch your pets closely!! Dogs are curious and will inspect things that move. One of my dogs has been bitten, thankfully he made a full recovery. That full recovery cost us close to $1,000.
- If you or your pet is bitten stay calm and seek immediate medical care.
- Rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal to humans, especially when you get prompt medical care. However, a bite from a rattlesnake is still considered a medical emergency and should be treated as such.