GREAT FALLS — There has been an increase in the number of rattlesnakes in and around Great Falls in recent weeks, according to Varmint Nabbers.
The prairie rattlesnake, Montana’s only venomous snake, is found throughout the state, primarily east of the Rockies. The prairie rattler likes tall grass, river banks, and rocky outcrops that face the sun. If you go out for a hike, walk with a group, keep your dog on a leash, and consider a walking stick. If you do hear a rattle, check your surroundings.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, an average of five to six people a year get bit in Montana.
Varmint Nabbers helps people who find "critters" in their area such as raccoons, marmots, and yes, snakes. They posted on Facebook on Sunday: "With the hot dry weather, we have had more rattlesnake calls than we've had in the history of our business. They are most likely coming in for water. We've had reports of dog bites, near misses with kids. Please, please be careful out there."
Jeremy Allestad, who runs Montana Reptile Rescue in Great Falls, also reports an increase in the number people calling him to remove rattlesnakes. He also noted that rattlesnakes are nocturnal hunters; they bask in the early morning and late afternoon, and it is rather rare for them to be moving around mid-day. Allestad says they prefer to stay low and still during the day to sleep and wait for night to become active.
The snakes are not limited to any particular area - they have responded to reports of rattlesnakes across the area, including the Skyline and Riverview neighborhoods, the south side of Great Falls, and the Belview area.
Veterinarian Michelle Richardson explains why it makes sense for snakes to move closer to Great Falls as the heat increases and available water in outlying areas decreases: “Well, we have everything that they need. We have lots of fields with lots of rodents and things for them to eat; we have water nearby. We are really the ideal place for snakes, rattlesnakes in particular.”
Rivers, pools, bird baths, and even outside dog bowls are prime targets for snakes.
If you or pets are bitten by one, be sure to call or visit an emergency service provider as soon as possible.
Clinics that offer emergency vet care in and around Great Falls include:
Big Sky Animal Medical Clinic: 406-761-8387
Skyline Veterinary Clinic: 406-761-8282
Associated Veterinary Service: 406-727-0477
Best Friends Animal Hospital 406-453-2200
Two Rivers Pet Hospital: 406- 453-8888
Keller’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic: 406-727-5760
Learn about the rattle: