Scales and Tales

"Protecting Your Family, Pets and Livestock from Snakes"

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is part 3 of our answer to a recent question involving increased snake activity in the Black Hills. If you missed them, read Part 1 and Part 2 . This time we'll give you some advice on how to protect yourself and your animals from snakes.

A Little Snake Education
Interestingly enough, South Dakota hasn't had a death from a rattlesnake bite in over 50 years. But, no one likes to get bitten at all, so if possible, it's always best to avoid an encounter altogether. Here are some tips:

  • Teach your family about snakes
    The best way to protect your family from snakes is to educate them. As parents, we teach our children not to talk to strangers, how to safely cross the road and to not play with guns. Living in western South Dakota, we should also teach our kids how to safely interact and behave around all of our native wildlife: bees, mountain lions, rattlesnakes etc.

    Local folks have a huge resource that should be used: Reptile Gardens. At Reptile Gardens, parents can learn what to say about snakes and can also give their children an opportunity to see, learn and explore the world of the Rattlesnake.

  • Be aware of your surroundings
    Always watch where you sit, stand, walk and place your hands. Teach older children to be aware of their surroundings and to leave all snakes alone. Information is key and the more they know about their surroundings the better. Never let young children play outside unsupervised. Young children have a more difficult time perceiving dangerous situations, so are at high risk.

  • Keep your pets safe
    Dogs, cats, and some other pets are generally pretty resistant to snake venom, at least in comparison to people. We have quite a few pets bitten each year by rattlesnakes with only a few deaths.Most times a dog can "ride out" the bite. The worst cases are when dogs are bitten in the face, causing massive swelling and cutting off the ability to breathe.

    There is a vaccination for dogs. However, I have researched these pretty extensively and some of the top venom and snakebite experts in the world have concluded it's very unlikely these boosters do any good for a bitten dog. However, they have proven to do no harm, so there is no reason other than the cost to not get them.

    Most frequently after a bite, a veterinarian will provide supportive care, take a blood panel, and determine if the bite warrants the use of antivenin.

  • Watch your livestock
    Livestock are frequently bitten, but due to their larger size, it is very rare for them to require any veterinary treatment at all. Though again, facial bites can cause enough swelling to lead to breathing difficulties. So any bite, whether to a person, pet or livestock, should be treated as a medical emergency.



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