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My main goal in life is to care for and protect the many cuddly critters who reside at Bella Vista Farms. But this summer the farm was visited by a few uninvited, uncuddly, dangerous “guests”. Five to be exact. That’s five too many. Yup, you guessed it – Rattlesnakes! Yikes! The first, I came very close to stepping on. I could see his glistening, Colgate polished fangs. He was 45” long, coiled, rattling and ready – I wasn’t. I grabbed my dogs and ran! Bob assured me that he was more afraid of me than I was of him – ya, right.
Since that day, and a few more uncuddlies of various sizes, slithering through the farm, I’ve taken a crash course in Rattlesnake 101. Rattlesnake trivia follows —
The only venomous snake in California is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, also known as the viperine, or pit viper. They have long, hinged, hollow fangs. They strike, inject venom and withdraw. Both adults and babies are extremely dangerous. There are 32 species of rattlesnakes in the U.S. They are found in grassy areas, between rocks, and in wooded areas. They are most active March-October. 80-85° temperatures are just to their liking. They do hibernate in winter, but still could be found sunny themselves at any time of the year. They are not aggressive, but will bite if startled or frightened. They can strike ½ of their body length. A bite will show two obvious fang puncture marks. Small or baby snakes are not more dangerous as is a common belief. They are tiny and terrified and are not as easily seen, thus they are more likely to bite.
Due to the curious nature of dogs, a rattling snake is just too much temptation. Investigating is a must. Due to this curiosity, vets treat thousands of rattlesnake bites a year. If your dog is bitten, symptoms will include severe pain, restlessness, panting, drooling, weakness, collapse, seizures, and shock. Keeping the phone number of your local emergency vet handy could save your pet’s life. If your dog is bitten, do not waste time. Keep your dog warm and quiet and get to the vet!
Severity depends on the number of bites, size and age of the dog, location of the bite, amount of venom injected and how much time has elapsed. The most dangerous bites are to the tongue, face, or shoulders. The larger the animal, the higher the rate of survival. Treatment will include anti-venom, pain meds, lab work, IV fluids, antihistamines, and antibiotics, all very costly. Please vaccinate your dogs yearly to protect against rattlesnake bites. The injection is inexpensive and will lessen the severity of a bite. This immunization should not give you a false sense of security – still get to the vet immediately.
For a group or private class on rattlesnake aversion training, contact Cody Will at Wills Skills, 530-200-1880 or at K9SNAKEAVERSION@yahoo.com. He is extremely knowledgeable and an expert aversion trainer.