An increase in rattlesnake activity in some parts of the country is leaving people and pets with painful bites and driving some experts to remind Americans of the dangers they can pose. Doctors and veterinarians are reminding pet owners in particular that rattlesnake bites can be lethal if they are not quickly treated with an expensive antivenom, meaning that the best policy is to keep a close eye on the ground and stay away when possible.
Rattlesnake season continues into September
Venomous snakes are typically responsible for about 8,000 bites and between 10 and 15 deaths in the United States each year, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Rattlesnakes generally want to avoid humans and will only attack if they feel desperate and threatened. Given space they will usually choose to retreat and avoid close contact.
When people intentionally get too close or are careless about approaching and handling the snakes an attack becomes far more likely.
Still, many rattlesnake bites can be completely accidental. Most bites occur on the feet and ankles of people who stumble across the venomous snakes before they have a chance to spot them.
Individuals hiking in areas with rattlesnake populations should keep an eye on the ground and walk carefully so that they do not surprise any resting snakes that might be in their way.
Both snakes and humans are most active outside during the warmer months so confrontations are likely during this part of the year.
Most snakes in the United States are not venomous and deaths caused by snake bites are extremely rare even among those who are bitten by rattlesnakes.
Still, humans and pets should always seek urgent medical treatment after a rattlesnake bite. A prompt trip to a doctor should ensure that no permanent physical damage is done.
Permanent financial damage may be another matter altogether. One vial of rattlesnake antivenom can cost thousands of dollars and treatment typically requires multiple vials.
You can save potentially tens of thousands of dollars by watching your step and keeping your pet on a leash if you are out on a hike in peak rattlesnake season.
Anyone who does experience a bite can expect severe swelling and possible heart damage if they are not able to receive that expensive antivenom within a few hours.
Rattlesnakes may cause a nasty bite to humans or pets who stumble across them but in general they have no interest in attacking us and are far more concerned with catching rodents.