We were up at a Big Bear concert a couple weekends ago, which was sponsored by the San Bernardino National Forest Association (great time – one more concert Sep 1st), and director Sarah Miggins told us they removed a rattlesnake during the concert that was coiled up under the sound stage. Oblivious to the hundreds of attendees, a U.S. Forest Service biologist successfully captured the snake, placed in a garbage can, and released it some distance away.
It was likely glad to get away from all the noise. And thank goodness, as one security person was about to use a fire extinguisher on the snake.
I’ve written about rattlesnakes before (see Some Truths about Rattlesnakes (and Myth Debunking) and It’s Springtime for Rattlers and other Snakes) – my goal is to dispel the fear about them. This seems an appropriate time to say once again that rattlesnakes should not be killed. Except for a few rare exceptions, they just want to get away from humans. (we encountered one in Oak Creek Canyon outside Sedona that would not leave the trail area so we had to make a pretty large detour)
I checked with my friendly snake expert, Dr. William Hayes of Loma Linda University, and he corrected some misinformation about relocation.
- The belief that relocated (translocated) snakes are as good as dead –that they are consigned to death if taken elsewhere and removed — is NOT true. According to Hayes, there is some evidence showing some don’t do well, especially those moved far distances, but studies have shown “eventually the snake settles into its new digs and can be successful. There’s a very reasonable chance that the translocated snake will fare okay.
Certainly, translocation is a far more reasonable option than being killed.” Dr. William Hayes, Professor of Biology, Loma Linda U
Hayes also reiterated the following:
- Rattlesnakes and other snakes play vital roles in limiting the size of rodent populations
Use common sense if you see a rattlesnake – or any snake. Move away from it, and it often leaves the area. For removal, call your the fire department or animal control number in your area – it varies which one is equipped to do the removal. We have removed small rattlers that were near our San Diego house by using a long stick to usher them into a big container before relocating them down the canyon. (See photo) But it’s best to call the experts.
- If you get bit, get to the hospital immediately. There’s no exact data but about 3500 to 4000 in the U.S get bit by rattlesnakes annually. The approximate five that die occurred between 6 and 48 hours after the bite. If anti-venom treatment is given within 1–2 hours of the bite, the probability of recovery is greater than 99%.
- If your dog gets bit (150,000 dogs is one annual estimate) many survive without treatment — my husband’s springer spaniel did — but some don’t. Getting bit in eye, mouth, ear area, or chest is more serious. A vet bill for anti-venom treatment can add up to $1500 or more. Consider snake-training for your dog. Search online for ‘dog snake training’ or call a dog trainer. And if you live in rattlesnake country, consider a vaccination for your dog.
Correcting More Misinformation about Rattlesnakes:
Hayes says research shows it is NOT true that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes. Reality: There is no published data to suggest that baby rattlers inject more venom or that they lack control of how much venom they expend. See How Dangerous Are Baby Rattlesnakes?
And it is NOT true that rattlesnake venoms are rapidly evolving to become more toxic. See Sensationalistic Journalism and Tales of Snakebite. There is a research article claims there is rapid evolution of venom, but Hayes said “the time scale is far, far greater than decades.”
For More Info: Biologyof theRattlesnakes.com
William K Hayes, PhD – firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 909-558-4300 (ext 48911)
My personal opinion: If you choose to live in a home on the edge of natural areas, or hike in those areas, learn to live with the others who make it their home.