Rattlesnake activity resumed a little earlier than usual in the Durango region – The Durango Herald

Venomous bites should prompt a quick trip to the nearest hospital

Prairie rattlesnakes are the most common species in the Durango region and La Plata County. Rattlesnakes appear to have become active a little earlier this year than in previous years, said Randy Hays, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital. He bases this on the number of calls he received this spring. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Rattlesnakes slithered out of their dens near Durango a little earlier this year than in previous years, and with an extended rattlesnake season, Riverview Animal Hospital treated more bites from spring to early this month. of August.

Rattlesnakes are generally most active during the warmer months of summer through fall, but their activity started earlier in the spring this year, said Randy Hays, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital.

Riverview Veterinary Hospital and other veterinary hospitals in Durango are stocked with antivenom used to treat snakebites and mitigate their dangerous – and sometimes fatal – bites, he said.

This spring and summer, Riverview Animal Hospital is seeing an average of about three snakebites per month. He said that’s only a small increase from previous years, but a slight increase for sure.

Hays said rattlesnakes are commonly seen at Durango Dog Park, the Horse Gulch trail system, the Turtle Lake Meadows area and the Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico.

Chris Burke, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff‘s Office, said the sheriff’s office hasn’t received any calls about snakebites or removals in the past year, but deputies are responding if we ask them.

John Livingston, spokesman for the southwest region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said CPW has received only a few calls about rattlesnakes in the Durango and La Plata County area so far this year.

But he said Durango and surrounding areas definitely have rattlesnakes present.

People are more likely to encounter a rattlesnake when the sun is up and temperatures are warm, he said.

Chris Nelson, director of animal services at the La Plata County Humane Society, said bull snakes are generally more prevalent than rattlesnakes. Sometimes people confuse them with rattlesnakes, he says.

“They (the bull snakes) keep the rattlesnakes away,” he said. “They are known to eat small rattlesnakes. Bull snakes are our friends. Everyone should know that. They kill mice and keep rattlesnakes away.

Humane Society Animal Protection Services doesn’t usually deal with snake removals, he said, but officers will respond as a courtesy.

He said that regardless of the type of snake, if hikers or cyclists encounter one on the trail or in a park, they should leave it alone.

“He doesn’t want you involved and he doesn’t want anything to do with humans,” he said.

He said snakes are cold-blooded creatures that need to warm up to boost their metabolism and digest their food.

“Give them a good spot, turn around if you have to, but don’t step on them, touch them, don’t disturb them,” he said. “Don’t try to figure out what kind it is. Leave him alone.

A snake that feels threatened may adopt a defensive posture, but it’s just as likely to retreat in the opposite direction, he said.

What to do if a rattlesnake bites

People must go to the nearest hospital within 30 minutes of being bitten by a rattlesnake. For pets that have been bitten, antivenom from an animal hospital is most effective if treatment is received within two hours of the animal being bitten. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Livingston said the rattlesnakes will go to great lengths to avoid having to deliver a venomous bite. Rattlesnake bites in humans and pets are usually accidents – a person may accidentally step on a snake they didn’t notice, or a curious dog may get too close to the snake to sniff it. .

A person bitten by a rattlesnake should be hospitalized within 30 minutes of being bitten, he said. For a healthy adult, a rattlesnake is probably not fatal. But deaths are more common among children and people with other health conditions.

“If you get bitten, the first thing you want to do is get out of that neighborhood,” he said. “You don’t want to risk getting more bites from that same snake. If you can, try to get out of this area and get to a place where you can lie flat and rest comfortably.

If someone in a group of people is bitten, one person should call for help. But the bite victim shouldn’t be left alone, Livingston said.

After being bitten, allow the wound to bleed freely for about 30 seconds. Then clean and disinfect the wound with iodine or, if that’s not an option, soap and water, he said.

The purpose of the wound wrap is to restrict movement of the limb and prevent venom from entering the body’s bloodstream. But wrapping the wound so tightly that the bandage cuts off circulation doesn’t help, he says.

Rattlesnake venom works by breaking down muscle tissue at a rapid rate. In nature, the venom triggers the process of digestion of the snake’s prey.

Hays, the veterinarian, said the sooner an animal receives treatment after a bite, the better.

He said it’s best to walk quickly or carry the animal to the car and call a vet ahead of time to let them know the situation.

The venom can often cause shock in pets. It affects several systems inside the body, he said.

“It can also cause damage to the heart as well as damage to local tissues where the bite took place. They tend to bleed a bit too much from where the bite took place,” he said. “The big immune response from the venom itself is the biggest concern, and that’s what’s causing the shock.”

Primary treatment includes fluid therapy, painkillers, and the use of antivenom. Hays said the antivenom is extremely effective and makes a significant difference in the levels of discomfort and pain an animal may experience after being bitten. He said the best results occur if an animal is treated within two hours of being bitten.

He cautioned that a bite from a young (smaller) rattlesnake should not be taken any lighter than that from a large or adult specimen, contrary to what some people might think.

“In fact, it can sometimes be more dangerous,” he said. “They can sometimes release all their venom in one bite. While an adult rattlesnake usually retains some of its venom for potential future fights.

Hays said all local veterinary hospitals in Durango work together to cover these types of emergencies.

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Jennifer R. Strohm