Don't be shaken by rattlers

Alanna Kelly

Two Okanagan Valley residents were rattled by a slithering creature on Wednesday, but biologists say they should consider themselves lucky to have seen them.

Lake Country resident Stacey McKee says her dogs started barking excessively at about 5 p.m., and when she walked outside her home on East Ridge Drive she realized they had been upset by a rattlesnake.

“I clicked in and I heard it rattling and I was like ‘get in the house! Get in the house!’ It was in defensive strike mode,” said McKee. 

Marshall Shelswell was on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail when he heard a rattlesnake.

“It started moving so I picked up my dog,” he said.

Biologist Michael Dunn said these residents should be thankful they got to see the endangered species. 

Only two people have died in the Okanagan from rattlesnake bites in the past 100 years.

“On average, we get around two to three bites in the Okanagan, per year,” he said. “This is not a dangerous species, this is something we can coexist with easily and it is something that people don’t need to be afraid of, they just need to be aware of it.” 

If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, Dunn says don’t compress it or worry about elevating it.

“Transport to a medical facility as soon as possible because anti-venin will have the most effect out of anything,” he said. 

Even if you are bitten by a snake, you might not actually have venom in you. Fifty per cent of snake bites are actually dry bites, where the snake sticks its fangs in but doesn't inject any venom. 

“We pose way more risk to snakes than they do to us,” he said. “They want to be as far away from us as possible and we just need to allow them their habitat to do that.

If you see a rattlesnake, you should stomp your feet or grab a stick and bang it on the ground. 

“Snakes do a lot of their sensing through vibration so they will feel you coming before they can see you or sense you,” said Dunn. “The best thing you can do is stay at least a metre and a half away from the snake and bang the stick at your feet.”

Dunn adds, unfortunately, there has been a lot of destruction to rattlesnakes dens. He says if someone finds a rattlesnake, they should not move them. 

“If you think you are a Good Samaritan by bringing a snake away from someone's property and move it more than a couple of kilometres, the snake isn’t going to make it,” said Dunn. 

For help or assistance with a snake, you can call your local conservation officer or the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources. 

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