Some residents in and around the Skyline area of Great Falls are concerned about a recent influx of rattlesnakes.
Several people have reported finding snakes in their yards; most of the reports come from homes between 36th Avenue North and Eagle's Crossing, and between Division Road and Bootlegger Trail. Many of the homes in that area have yards adjacent to large fields.
Kristin Ronke posted the following message on Thursday in a neighborhood Facebook group: "Please be aware!! We just killed TWO rattlesnakes in our front yard. They were in the rockbeds next to our front walkway. We are on 36th Ave NE and 4th St."
Jeremy Allestad operates a "reptile removal" service, and he has been very busy over the last several days.
Allestad says that he does not kill the animals he captures, but rather relocates them.
On Friday afternoon, as news of the snakes began circulating on Facebook, Carrie Galvez called Allestad and asked him to come check her property, located near 34th Avenue NE and 2nd Street NE.
A few minutes later, Allestad showed up, and within minutes he found a rattlesnake under the deck - much to Carrie's dismay.
He estimated that it is about two feet long.
He placed the snake in a cooler and said that he will relocate it several miles north of town, as he does with all snakes that he catches.
Allestad said that the snake showed signs of hunger and dehydration, and speculated that the extremely dry weather and recent home-building activity nearby has led some snakes to move closer into town to find food and water.
However, he says that the overall amount of rattlesnake activity he has seen this year is no more or less than in previous years.
Allestad says if you see a snake and want it removed, call him at 406-750-8663. His business is a non-profit agency that operates solely on donations to fund his expenses.
Many people are worried about their pets. We have received one report (unconfirmed) that a dog was bitten by a rattlesnake on Friday on Riverview 7W; a post on Facebook says that the dog received vet care promptly, and is now recovering.
AdoptAPet.com offers the following advice:
Get your dog the rattlesnake vaccine: The vaccine is made from snake venom and works in a way so that if your dog is bitten, the reaction to the bite is REDUCED and may be delayed – it is not completely eliminated, so a vaccinated dog bitten by a rattlesnake will still need vet care as soon as possible.
Walk your dog on 6-foot leash: If you hear a rattle or see a snake on the ground ahead of you, if your dog is on a 6 foot leash, you can avoid it. Vets say the vast majority of rattlesnake bites occur when a dog is off-leash or on a flexi-lead.
Avoid avoid rocky or dense brush or grassy areas: On your walks with your dog, stay on the trail, and choose wide trails or roads over narrow brush-bordered trails if possible.
If you & your dog encounter a rattlesnake: Calmly & slowly back away from the snake until you are no longer within striking distance (about the snake’s length) and until the snake stops rattling at you. Then carefully leave the area.
DesertUSA.com offers the following advice:
Last summer, Dr. Elin Pierce, the Malmstrom Air Force Base Natural Resource Manager, told KRTV that snakes are most active in the middle of the day and they most often run away before you are aware of them.
"They do not thermo-regulate like we do. They absorb the sun and they get really fast and really active when it is hottest," Pierce said.
In the morning hours rattlesnakes are slower and they could be laying out in a sunny spot.
Pierce says you should be looking around to make sure you do not encounter one.
"A dangerous situation arises when you get real close by accident. Let's say you are jogging on a trail and there is a snake there that you didn't see. You step real close and the snake feels threatened and responds by striking as self-defense," Pierce said.
Pierce says that humans are not prey for snakes; when they strike at us they are defending themselves.
When it comes to rattlesnakes you will hear them rattle before you see them. If you hear the rattling stop where you are and do not move.
"Try to find out where the sound is coming from and back up. If you do that and the rattlesnake is under the bush or something and you can't see it but you know the sound is coming from there, do not go poking sticks in there to see if the snake will go away. Do not try to make the snake go away - you go away," Pierce said.
If you do get bitten by a rattlesnake, sit down, make sure the bite mark is lower than your heart, do not try to get the venom out, and call for help.
Pierce says if you are far away from help remain calm and move as slow as possible to try to get to a place where you can call for help.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks says of prairie rattlesnakes:
Of the ten snake species that live in Montana, only the prairie rattle-snake is venomous. Also known as the western rattlesnake, the prairie rattler is found in open, arid country and ponderosa pine savannahs. It often dens on south-facing slopes in areas with rock outcrops.
Rattlesnake bites are extremely rare. Of the hundreds of thousands of hunters, hikers, and backpackers traversing Montana each year, only five or six report being bitten, according to the Rocky Mountain Poison & Drug Center in Denver. The center also notes there was not a single death among the 45 reported prairie rattlesnake bites in Montana during the last eight years.
The prairie rattlesnake is a medium-sized species with venom glands that harbor only moderate amounts of venom. Nevertheless, prairie rattlesnakes have the ability to deliver a dose of venom lethal to an adult human. That's why anyone who spends time outdoors in Montana should have at least a passing awareness of snake-bite first aid.
Rattlesnakes are shy, retiring creatures. If left alone, they won't bother people. But if a rattlesnake thinks it will be stepped on or otherwise harmed, it may bite. These snakes are armed with a pair of hollow, hinged fangs that fold back against the roof of the mouth. A rattlesnake strikes most often on the hand, calf, or ankle, leaving one or two small fang marks. When bitten, a person will likely feel intense pain at the bite area. Other symptoms may include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, swelling, and gangrene.