By LuAnn McLain
If you are like us, you may be wondering when it will be safe to walk in areas where one might meet rattlesnakes. According to staff at the local office of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks,(FWP) it isnt safe yet.
Right now actually is a key time for snakes. They are taking on more food and trying to find a place to den up. Woodpiles and garbage piles are places you might find snakes as they will like hiding there. Anything close to the ground that provides cover is a potential hanging out place for snakes.
My husband and I have some places we like to walk our dogs off leash but not all those places are safe from dangers. We have encountered rattlesnakes before and fortunately have never been bitten or had a dog bitten by one. We know some people who have not been so fortunate.
When I talked to FWP, I was told to wear jeans and sturdy shoes or boots. I explained that my concern was for my dogs. I was told most dogs will just bark at rattlers and stay away from them.
I believe that depends on the dog! Weve had dogs that probably would show good sense and keep distance from a snake. Weve also had terriers inclined to go in first for a kill, then look to see what it was.
We know that a dog running along might not see a snake before it is too late. A relative lost his dog to snake bite last year and believes his dog was bit when he (the dog) stopped to lift his leg on a cactus. He doubts his dog even saw the snake that caused his fatal wound, prior to being bitten.
Local veterinarians, too, have seen snake bites all too often. We have heard of dogs that died from the bites. Often infection flares up after the dog has passed through the crisis and if hes not been treated with antibiotics in time he may die.
I was told by one veterinarian that cats seem to weather snake bites better but I have not researched that so cant verify it. I would think cats bitten by snakes might not make it home or may have not been observed being bitten as a dog would.
So when will it be safe to walk without fear of snakes? According to FWP, once we get the first snow, or at least some consistently below 30 degree temperatures, the snakes will head for their dens.
Fortunately, once the snakes go in, they stay in until late March or even late April. It looks like it shouldnt be too much longer before well be able to walk freely. But well probably need to be bundled up by then.
Extreme restlessness, panting, drooling and weakness are the first signs of bite. Immediate swelling, severe pain, redness and hemorrhages in the skin will occur right after the bite. If your pet has been, or you suspect your pet has been, bitten by a snake, seek professional veterinary care as soon as possible. It is important to keep the pet calm and to prevent the pet from being active. Carry your pet.
If possible, identify the snake. Poisonous snakes in our area have fangs and the bite mark should show fang marks. Bites from nonpoisonous snakes will show teeth marks in the shape of a horseshoe but no fang marks.
If you are out walking, know that now is a crucial time for snake activity. Watch out for places that provide hiding for snakes. Keep a close eye on those critters to make sure they dont stir up trouble.
Have a safe and happy week with your critter companions. If you would like to write to Pawsitively Pets, please send your letter to PO Box 1731, Havre, MT 59501.