Most snakes enter a subterranean location by mid-November, staying put until perhaps late March, a duration of time called “hibernation”. The location where snakes reside for the winter below the frost line is termed a “hibernaculum” or “den”. Hibernacula (plural of hibernaculum) are critical to the survival of snake species living in temperate zones with cold winters. Without hibernacula, snakes would not survive to reproduce and prey on species, such as rodents, which need the pressure of snakes, birds, and mammals to keep them in check.
Commonly, several different species of snakes, such as bullsnakes, rattlesnakes, garter snakes, and racer snakes occupy the same hibernaculum during the winter without conflict, and in the spring they all go their own way. With some snake species, such as rattlesnakes and garter snakes, a mild winter day may allow a few individuals to surface at the hibernaculum opening and enjoy the warm sun without exposing themselves totally to predators. Otherwise, most snakes remain underground and out of sight until the warming days of spring begin to heat the soil and rocks, which eventually warms the interior of the hibernaculum and out they come!
What should you do if you encounter a rattlesnake on a trail?
- 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