Rattlesnakes, unlike many snakes, give birth to their young rather than laying eggs. For the past six or seven weeks, expecting mothers likely have been near rock outcrops under good cover while also having opportunities to bask throughout the day. Often times, mothers will share a rock with other female rattlesnakes.This shared space is referred to as a “rookery” (a term important to birds, too). We’re watching three rookeries at South Table Mountain this year. The mothers move back and forth between sun and shade to regulate their temperature, allowing proper development of their embryos. In fact, one female is observed regulating her temperature on one side of a rock in the morning, and then another side in the afternoon.
Young rattlesnakes have slightly different venom properties. Their venom is adapted to help kill and digest bugs and lizards. Since young snakes are small, they don’t deliver a lot of venom. As they mature the venom shifts to properties adapted to kill and digest small mammals, though some rattlesnakes continue to eat lizards as the opportunity presents itself. Larger snakes may deliver larger amounts of venom making them more dangerous if you are bitten.
- Use the Jefferson County 30/30 rule:
- Walk 30 feet away from the snake and give it 30 seconds to leave the trail. NEVER attempt to move or harm a rattlesnake. Give snakes space and time to move away from you.
- If it does not move, carefully walk around it, giving the snake at least four feet of clearance.
What should you do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake?
- Call 911
- Remain calm
- Sit down and keep the bitten area at or below the level of your heart
- Do not attempt to drive yourself to a medical facility
- Remove rings, bracelets or other items that could restrict blood flow with severe swelling
- Record the time the bite occurred and monitor for severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing.
- DO NOT: cut skin, suck puncture wounds, apply a tourniquet, apply ice or water or use a venom extraction kit
How should you protect your dog?
- Keep your dog on a leash
- Keep them on the trail
- If your dog is bitten by a Rattlesnake:
- Immediately transport to a veterinary medical facility
- Call ahead and ensure the veterinarian is prepared for a snake bite emergency
- If possible, carry your pet to reduce activity and the overall effect of venom