Scales and Tales

Hold My Beer and Watch This!

So, now that we know how to avoid rattlesnakes and what to do if we encounter one. What should we do if we don't follow Terry's advice and leave all snakes alone? What if the odd encounter happens where we unknowingly step on or sit next to a rattlesnake and the unfortunate occurs?

A large Prairie RattlesnakeBites from Prairie Rattlesnakes are very rare in South Dakota, in a normal year hospitals see one to two dozen rattlesnake bites to humans. And like I said, the vast majority of these are people who try to catch, kill, or tease them. Statistically, being a male between 16-25 years of age with some level of alcohol in the system is the number one precursor to venomous snakebite. I suggest that "Hold my beer and watch this" is not an appropriate behavior when encountering rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnake bites are a medical emergency and prompt proper antivenom therapy in a hospital is the only accepted treatment for snakebites. Do not follow the advice of others who suggest any of the following. I repeat DO NOT:

Cut and suck the fang marks.

Apply a tourniquet

Apply heat

Apply Ice

Apply tobacco

Hook yourself up to your car battery

Use a stun gun

Take any type of drug or alcohol

Or any of the other recommendations that just sounds odd


Remain calm, you have time and won't drop dead in minutes

Call 911

Remove any and all jewelry from the extremity

Apply a splint to limit joint mobility if possible

Have someone transport you to the nearest medical facility

Fatalities are rare from rattlesnake bites in this country. There are 5-10,000 snakebites in the U.S every year with less than half a dozen fatalities annually. In the State of South Dakota, to my knowledge there has not been a rattlesnake bite fatality in over 60 years. Quality rapid transport and prompt proper antivenom therapy in a hospital keeps fatalities to a minimum.

So, what should you do when you encounter that rattlesnake? Immediately, stop, look around and try to find its location, move slowly away from it to a safe distance of several feet —several miles if you prefer. Please take my advice and leave them alone, there is no need to kill them in this situation and to put yourself in danger. Take a picture and enjoy the beauty of western South Dakota and its wonderful inhabitants! And finally, enjoy and tell that wonderful tale of your encounter with a rattlesnake to all of your friends and family on the patio under the amazing stars in the sky of this wonderful state!



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