Natrona County Sheriff Offers Rattlesnake Safety Reminders
The Natrona County Sheriff's Office wants the public to know that rattlesnakes enjoy the same scenery, outdoors, and warm and dry weather like the rest of us.
On the other hand, rattlers often don't get along with the rest of us, especially because they bite with potentially life-threatening consequences. We had a similar story last month with advice from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, but this bears repeating.
The Sheriff's Office offers these tips:
- Wear boots and long pants when hiking to help block rattlesnake venom.
Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in areas where you cannot clearly see where you are placing your feet. Hiking boots and long pants offer an extra layer of protection from unexpected encounters with a rattlesnake.
- Stay on trails when hiking, away from underbrush and tall weeds.
Snakes can rest almost anywhere that is hidden from view. Brush offers protection for snakes. That enables them to hide from predators, avoid extreme temperatures and hunt for prey.
Trails tend to have fewer hiding places for snakes and offer a level of protection for you. Stay on trails to avoid potentially disturbing a rattlesnake in hiding.
- Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead.
Snakes use their hidden position to strike and kill their prey by surprise. Don’t mistake their apparent stillness as a safe opportunity to investigate. Even freshly killed snakes may still be able to bite.
- Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or firewood.
Rattlesnakes are often well-camouflaged and wait quietly for prey, so they can be difficult to see. Piles of rocks or logs, patches of dense shrubs, and expanses of tall grasses are among the places where snakes may seek shelter. Carefully inspect logs or rocks before picking them up or sitting down to avoid accidentally disturbing a rattlesnake.
- Never hike alone in remote areas.
Having a hiking partner is important in a crisis, especially in a situation where you or your hiking partner is bitten by a snake. If safe to do so, have your partner photograph the snake so identification can be made to aid in treatment.
- Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
Curious children who pick up snakes are frequently bitten. Teach them always to give snakes the right of way to prevent snake bites.
- Keep pets close to you.
Dogs are curious and snakes are defensive — a bad combination. A snake won't take the time to determine if that canine nose headed in their direction is a curious domestic dog, or a coyote or fox looking for a snake dinner.
On hiking trips, you should keep dogs on a short leash. Hunters using bird dogs should be especially mindful of rattlesnakes during dove season and the early part of pheasant season prior to the first winter freeze. Training your hunting dog to avoid snakes may also help prevent bites.
Some veterinarians offer a rattlesnake vaccine, which can help minimize the effects of a snakebite. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations, because opinions and treatments vary. Seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible if your dog is bitten.
- If you get bitten by a snake, don’t panic.
Most snakes in Wyoming are not venomous. But no matter what species administered the bite, the best option is to have it looked at by a doctor.
Don’t try any of the Western remedies you’ve heard about like cutting open the bite and attempting to suck out the venom. Leave the bite alone and seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
The best "first-aid kit" for a snake bite is your cell phone and car keys. If possible, call ahead to the medical facility so doctors can be prepared with the appropriate treatments.