All About Animals: Uninvited Summer Guests

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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.

Chic Miller
Since 1990 Chic Miller and her husband, Bob, have owned and operated Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) non-profit animal sanctuary on Gas Point Road in Cottonwood. The Millers care for hundreds of abused and neglected animals. Animals that come to this sanctuary remain there for the rest of their lives. Chic is a retired nurse and takes care of all the medical needs for the injured and ill animals. Aside from a few volunteers, Bob and Chic take care of all the daily chores. The Millers care for hundreds of animals, including dogs, horses, ponies, pigs, llamas, goats, cats, chickens and yes, even a one-legged turkey. Chic Miller can be reached at 530-347-0544. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to help support Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary.
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2 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    We have been very fortunate in that our Springer Spaniels seem to have an innate understanding about snakes and shy away from them. Our chickens, however, were very interested in a tiny rattlesnake in the yard, and surrounded a little foot-long baby rattler. Because rattlers keep the gopher population in check, we don’t kill them unless absolutely necessary; so husband scooped the little guy onto a shovel and took him across the road to the boonies.

  2. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyder says:

    Great article Chic. This is important information. We usually find around 5 rattlesnakes on our property during the summer, but this year we’re only had one baby snake. Our dog, fortunately, has a particular awareness, and a particular bark for a rattle snake.
    The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake is one of several species of rattlesnakes in California, but it’s the only one I’ve seen in Shasta County. And, at times I’ve mistaken young Pacific Gopher snakes for rattle snakes because they look the same, they coil and they strike!