Project Wildlife Animals: Snakes
We currently do not work with reptiles, however, below is some information on rattlesnakes including, how to deter them from living near your house, what to do if you discover one and what to do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake.
How to Deter Rattlesnakes
Add a low level rattlesnake proof fence around the backyard. While this is not a cheap option, it does work and can reassure you that a particular zone of your home is safe from rattlesnakes. In fact, you don't need to even wall off the whole backyard - you can select an area for the children to play in, for pets to frolic in and for entertainment purposes and only fence off that part. This becomes the "safety zone".
- Use a mesh that is not wider than a quarter of an inch in diameter or use solid material. Any un-textured material is best because snakes cannot climb smooth surfaces as they cannot bet a grip.
- Make the fence to a minimum height of three feet.
- Take care with corners, so as not to create a bellyhold (snake for "toehold") on the fence.
- Bury the fence under the ground to a minimum of 3 inches under the ground.
- Be careful with any gates. If you don't join the fence to the walls of your house, it is important to ensure that any gate has no gaps on the sides and sits flush with the ground. It can help to place a concrete slab directly under the gate going into the ground as a deterrent - this must sit flush with the base of the gate. This is a time when precision building is very important.
- Maintain the fence - all gaps, holes and dirt collapses must be with quickly to prevent possible entry points from weakening the fence.
Remove shrubs, overhanging vegetation and any other plants from the perimeter of the fence.
Do not lean anything against the fence that a rattlesnake might be able to use as leverage to crawl over.
Check under and around the house.
Look for gaps, areas that a rattlesnake can access underneath the house and fill, plug or board off these areas. Under the house is an ideal environment for a snake so take care to discourage this. Check the walls, the foundation, the steps, etc..,
Keep wood piles and any other materials stored in your backyard away from the home.
If you already have piles, be careful when removing them.
Keep the rodents under control.
Don't provide a tasty food source. Get rid of mice, rats and other rodents feasting about your home and you will remove a major source of rattlesnake attractant. This is especially important around areas where animal food is stored on farms.
Keep other food sources out of the reach of snakes.
This means keeping pet food inside or covered. Garbage cans should be securely covered at all times.
Eliminate rattlesnake homes and nesting-sites.
Potential homes for rattlesnakes should be removed from the area around your home. This includes such things as wood piles, rock piles, garbage piles, long grass, brush, undergrowth, piles of building materials etc. Think about the places that would be cozy for a snake to move into and remove them. But be careful when you remove them! There may already be a rattlesnake in residence.
Keep lawns and fields around the house mowed.
A short lawn or field is not a great place to hide and makes it very easy for you to spot a rattlesnake taking a shortcut. Be careful, however, not to provide sheltering places such as piles of timber or rocks that create safety stations for snakes crossing short grass, or you will not succeed in discouraging them.
Know your snakes!
Some snakes can be good to have around as they deter rattlesnakes from hanging around through natural competition. Of course, this depends on your own level of squeamishness about having any snakes at all in your backyard! If you don't mind the snakes, consider encouraging gopher snakes and king snakes.
If you do discover a rattlesnake in your backyard, keep calm. Send children, pets and scared adults indoors immediately. Wait for the snake to leave. Call for professional assistance if you are concerned that the rattlesnake may be settling in but if you have made your yard as unfavorable to a snake as possible, the snake will leave if given the chance. There are strict laws on killing rattlesnakes in any other situation than an immediate threat and in your own self-defense - most rattlesnakes will only strike if acting in self-defense. If you remain out of the way, there will be no strikes.
What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Rattlesnake
- Stay calm, get safely away from the snake and have someone call 9-1-1 (or the emergency number in your area). The less the victim moves the bitten site, the less likely the venom will be profused and cause damage.
- Have the victim lie down with the affected limb lower than the heart. Keep the limb immobilized. If practical, splint the limb.
- Treat for shock and preserve body heat.
- Remove any rings, bracelets, boots or other restricting items from the bitten extremity (it will swell.)
- Apply a light constricting band about 2 inches above and below the bite, however never place the bands on either side of a joint (such as above and below the knee or elbow). This band should be made of wide, soft material, which could be a handkerchief or shredded clothing. The band should only be as tight as the band the nurse applies when giving a blood test. Note: the purpose of constricting bands is to restrict lymphatic flow, not blood, so they should not be too tight. Check pulses below the bands and readjust them as necessary when they tighten due to swelling.
- Wash the bite with soap and water (if available).
- If the victim has to walk out, sit calmly for 20-30 minutes to let the venom localize at the site, proceed calmly to the nearest source of help and try to avoid unnecessary exertion which will stimulate circulation of the poison, Get the victim to definitive medical care for anti-venom, which will provide the greatest relief from the toxic effects of the bite.
Actions to Avoid:
DO NOT cut the bite. The additional tissue damage may actually increase the diffusion of the toxins throughout the body.
DO NOT apply a tourniquet. Such action can result in the loss of the limb.
NEVER try to suck out the venom by mouth. You can try the suction cup in a snakebite kit if it doesn't delay other needed treatment. Suctioning seldom provides any measurable advantages.
Do not apply cold and/or ice packs. Recent studies indicate that application of cold or ice makes the injury much worse.