Rattlesnakes come out of hibernation in the Tri-Cities
TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Temperatures have finally reached 70 degrees and many will be heading up Badger Mountain and hiking local trails. The warmer temperatures also mean rattlesnakes are out as well.
“They come out of those hibernation areas and they lay in the sun and get warm,” said Jeff Howland, Wildlife Refuge Manager with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“They are particularly common near rocky areas, near cliffs,” said Howland.
He said people don’t need to be worried, but should definitely be aware and careful.
He said people don’t usually get bit, but more than half of those who do were messing with the snake, trying to catch or kill it.
“Although most of these rattlesnake bites are not life-threatening, they can do a lot of local damage right near the site of the bite. So people often lose fingers,” said Howland.
The mortality rate of humans bit by a rattlesnake in the U.S. is less than one percent.
For dogs, rattlesnake bites can be extremely serious and even deadly, said Dr. Laura Serreyn with VCA Animal Hospital on Gage Blvd.
She said 2-4 cases each Summer are treated just at VCA. Other vets receive about the same about, meaning about 10-20 dogs are bitten in the Tri-Cities each season.
“Dogs always tend to investigate things with their noses and faces and so that swelling then can lead to them having significant difficulty breathing,” said Serreyn.
They can also suffer from bleeding and clotting disorders. Animal hospitals also have to give supportive care like IV fluids.
Some pet owners who hike a lot choose to get an annual vaccination for their dog, protecting them for up to six months.
“There has been some proof that if you have your dog vaccinated for rattlesnakes, it can reduce the severity of their bite,” said Serreyn.
She said if your dog is bit, you should carry them to the car and bring them to the vet immediately. Keep them from running and getting excited or the venom will spread faster.
One bottle of antivenom from a vet costs about $500. Some large dogs may need more than one dose.
“They can only strike about half of their body length and a big rattlesnake in this area is maybe 4 feet long,” said Howland.
He recommends keeping your pet on a leash and not letting them explore under bushes or rocks.