From every indication, this summer will be a bad one for rattlesnake encounters. While we got the rain we prayed for, we also got a huge crop of wild grasses to go with it and there is almost certainly a big crop of rodents to eat those grasses and their seeds. Because rodents like rats, mice, gophers, squirrels, and voles are the primary food source for snakes it looks like we can expect greater snake numbers as well.
To compound the problem, nearly all the areas of water are at much higher levels than previous years, which drives the critters like rodents and the snakes that eat them to all head for higher ground. Naturally we humans are also attracted to water as well. Area lakes and reservoirs will be packed with humans swimming, skiing, fishing and having picnics. It is inevitable that human-snake encounters will be much greater. If you are going to be outdoors it will behoove you to take a few simple precautions to avoid snakebite.
This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to catching rattlesnakes. Some folks think that my hobby of catching live rattlers is a little weird, and who knows? Maybe they’re right. You’ve got admit though, catching rattlers is exciting. This is the time when the snakes are just coming out of hibernation, and I get out there and help reduce the conflict between rattlers and humans by catching rattlers that might bite some unwary ranch hand. Some guys will resort to any excuse to get outdoors.
Over the years, I have worked out a pretty good system for catching the rattlers and putting them into the sack. I have snake proof leggings that reach up to my knees, and four foot long snake grabbers to catch the little beggars with. When one of us grabs a snake the other guy holds open a cloth drawstring bag and the snake is carefully lowered into the sack. A generation ago, my son Bo accompanied me in my snake catching expeditions and now it won’t be too much longer until my grandkids are old enough to catch rattlers. All I have to do now is convince my daughters that I won’t get their children bitten by a snake.
Your best defense is really quite simple: Watch where you walk. It’s not very exotic, but all you have to do is get into the habit of looking down every few seconds. That way, you know where you’re going to be putting your feet, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. Not only will you be able to avoid snakes, but you will reduce your chance of falling on a loose rock and maybe twisting an ankle or breaking a leg. Don’t step over logs or rocks either; step on top of the log or rock. The reason for this is simple; rattlesnakes like to hide under logs and rocks.
The next thing you’ll want to do is get yourself a snake bite kit called The Extractor. They sell for about $15 at local drug stores and sporting goods stores. If you recall the old rubber suction cup type of snake bite kits you’ll be amazed at how much better the new extractor kits work. They are designed for use immediately after being bitten and also work on all kinds of venomous stings such as fire ants and scorpions. They literally suck the venom out through the bite holes. If applied immediately they can be real life savers. I have several of the extractor kits. I keep one on my fishing vest, one in my truck and I recommend that boaters keep one aboard as well.
The outdoors is a great place to recharge your batteries after a long stressful week, but a few precautions will help to make your excursions a little safer.
Until next week,