Lee Pitts: Rattled
September 6, 2017
Despite having lived in, or near, rattlesnake country my entire life I've never known anyone who actually got bit by one, let alone got bit and lived to tell the tale. Until now, that is.
We've lived in our house for over 30 years and never saw a rattlesnake on our place up until two years ago. Since then I've killed six on our place. One was under a trash can, two were in our driveway, two were in my wife's flower garden and I ran over one in front of our house, although I don't think I get a notch in my shovel for that one. Our neighborhood has become a Rattlesnake Social Club and whenever two neighbors meet the discussion always turns to snake sightings.
We think the influx of rattlers is because three years ago the CCC came in and made a fire break between us and the 8,000 acre state park next door. It was much appreciated at the time but it drove all the moles, gophers and rats on to our property, which the rattlesnakes eat like candy. Now many of us hate the firebreak, thinking we'd rather take our chances in a fire rather then die an ugly death caused by a venomous rattlesnake.
Count my neighbor as one of the firebreak haters. That's because he's the one who was bitten by the rattlesnake. One day last month his dog had a snake in her mouth and was shaking it violently, which is how dogs kill snakes. Unfortunately my neighbor didn't see the diamonds on the snake's hide and he reached down to separate it from his dog.
El biggo mistake-o. Do not pet the snake. I repeat, DO NOT PET THE SNAKE!
I'm glad to report both victims lived. My theory is the snake injected all its venom into the dog so there wasn't any left for my neighbor. The vet thinks both bites were "dry," as a quarter of all rattlesnake bites are. That means there was little venom injected. You can't tell that to my neighbor, or his dog, because they both suffered through three of the worst days of their lives.
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You'd think my buddy and his mutt married into the Kardashian clan or something with all the publicity they are getting. My neighbor is now a celebrity and he has started selling his autograph followed by two fang marks, all written with the snake-bitten hand.
I was talking to a large animal vet shortly after the newsworthy incident and he told me he gets about five dogs a year that were bitten by a rattler and about half of them live. He says the deciding factor on whether they live or die is the location of the bite. A paw is definitely better than the nose. And he's heard all the rumors about rattlesnakes, including…
September venom is the worst.
A rattler will never bite a pregnant woman.
The best way to treat a bite is to extract the gall from one and place it over the bite.
If you place a hair rope in a circle around your bed roll before you go to sleep you will NEVER be rudely awakened by a rattler alarm clock.
When a rattlesnake takes a drink of water it takes out its poison sack and if it is carried away or lost the rattler will commit suicide. Probably by biting its own lip. (Just kidding.)
Hogs are the only domestic animal that rattlesnakes can't hurt. To a Duroc, a rattlesnake is like eating a Milky Way bar! Hogs will eat all rattlers that invade their territory. (My neighbor is considering becoming a hog farmer.)
The best place to get bit (if there is one) is in the knee because snake's venom can't penetrate the knee cap.
After a dog is bitten, such is their intense hatred for snakes that it will dedicate its life to their worldwide extermination.
The vet also told me anti-venom treatments for humans can easily cost over $30,000. Being a cheapskate, I'd have to carefully weigh my options. My neighbor didn't have anti venom shots and he didn't die. (He just felt like it.) And a quarter of all rattlesnake bites are dry. Let's see… three days of violent purging, or spend thirty grand?
I'm a tough guy, I think I'd take my chances.