By Robert Lucke
April by many Native Americans was known as the month that hibernating animals came back to life once again. It was a season of true rebirth.
Well, for travelers these days out the Beaver Creek highway, they know that is true and that once gain we are at the beginning of another snake season.
Of all the snakes found in this part of Montana, and there are quite a few, only the rattlesnake is poisonous. However, others will bite and can make a person sick.
It used to be that so far as rattlesnakes were concerned in this part of Montana, they were only found in certain parts of the country.
Take Gildford for instance. For years and years, there were rattlesnakes north of Gildford and no rattlesnakes south of Gildford.
And as plentiful as they could be on the Milk River, there were areas of the Paradise Valley where farmers swear they have never seen a rattlesnake. Other areas of Paradise Valley produce hundreds of rattlesnake sightings in farm yards during snake season.
But times are changing in the snake movement in this area. Take the Bear Paw Mountains. On Beaver Creek, for instance, in years past it was very rare to ever see a rattlesnake above Rotary Hill. Not so any more. These days hikers, fishermen and campers should be on the lookout for snakes throughout the park.
On Clear Creek in the past there were never rattlesnakes seen above the Mosser bridge. These days ranchers in the high country south of the Mosser bridge kill several rattlesnakes each summer around their ranch buildings.
Same is true most everywhere in the Bear Paws.
What is causing this change is puzzling and has as many answers as people trying to answer that question. Everything from global warming to an over abundance of gophers has been blamed. No one seems to know for sure but they all know that the snakes are moving further into higher ground each year.
With all those stories about snake movements in this part of Montana, it is rare to see a rattlesnake when hiking in the Bear Paw or Little Rocky Mountains. Still, though, they are around and on the move, so use caution when hiking, fishing, and camping.
If bitten by a rattlesnake, treatment has changed over the years. Experts today recommend not opening wounds and sucking venom at all. Rather, it is better to get the rattlesnake victim to help as soon as possible and keep the patient as quiet as possible. Some still do suggest the use of tourniquets and most all suggest that with proper treatment, few people ever die of a rattlesnake bite.
With the advent of cell phones, most hikers and people who enjoy the solitude of back country are really not nearly as far removed from medical treatment as in days past.
Best advice of all is just to be on the lookout when recreating anywhere during snake season.