By Tim Kalinowski
Everywhere you travel in southern Alberta this year it seems someone has a rattlesnake story. Of running into a baby rattlesnake down by the South Saskatchewan River. Of removing a rattlesnake from their yard or seeing one cross the road. In Lethbridge a few weeks back a woman was bitten by a rattlesnake on the foot while flying a kite with her kids near a public path at a popular coulee lookout point. The woman took two weeks to recover from the bite which swelled her foot to three times its normal size and kept her at home from work until the side effects subsided.
I have always found rattlesnakes interesting in a creepy, slithery sort of way. I always say they are one of the most polite poisonous snakes in the world; after all they usually give you a rattling warning prior to biting you (most of the time). Ignore that warning and you probably deserve what you get. However, sometimes they will strike without rattling, when they are surprised, scared or stepped on. So it is incredibly important to keep your eyes down and searching while walking in any natural coulee areas or local grasslands, especially in late morning when the cold-blooded vipers warm themselves in the sunlight to get their circulation pumping.
Another interesting fact is rattlesnake venom is not as deadly as other snake venoms. If you are an adult and are bit in the lower extremities, there is a good chance after a few weeks on anti-venom and bed rest you will be perfectly fine again. There can sometimes, however, be lingering after effects. Some quite unpleasant. According to Medicine Online:
“In most cases, swelling and oedema resolve within two to three weeks. However, they may occasionally persist up to three months. In exceptional circumstances, they may also be permanent. There are records, which suggest that coagulation disturbances and neurotoxicity may persist beyond three weeks. Necrosis of the local tissue, resultant gangrene and the consequent cosmetic defects are obvious long term effects of ophitoxaemia (venom poisoning).”
The moral of the story is be rattlesnake aware as you go about your outdoor activities this summer. Stories of snake sightings are coming in from all over southern Alberta. So keep an eye out for the little buggers.