Beware The Rattle - Southern Alberta's Resident Reptile Ventures From Hibernation : B93.3 FM : Lethbridge's #1 Hit Music Station : Lethbridge News, Alberta
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Beware The Rattle - Southern Alberta's Resident Reptile Ventures From Hibernation


LETHBRIDGE:  First it was grizzly bears coming out of hibernation now, it's Western Prairie Rattle Snakes. The snakes have several hibernaculums (pits or underground chambers where they hibernate over winter) along the western side of the Oldman River.


The snakes traverse the west side river valley and are most common in the south-west area of the city, including Paradise Canyon, Popson and Cottonwood parks, as well as Riverstone and below the University.


Coreen Putnam, Helen Schuler Nature Centre coordinator, says the rattlesnake population in Lethbridge is small and the Western Prairie Rattle Snakes that live here may have been, at one time, much more abundant in the area. Provincially, the reptile is "Blue Listed", which means their populations have undergone significant declines and their population or the habitat they require may be at risk. For that reason, the snakes are 'protected'. It is illegal to kill, harm or possess rattle snakes or their parts. Not only is the creature protected but, so is their habitat and their denning sites.


In the spring, rattle snakes will generally 'hang-out' around their hibernation sites because of the uncertainty of the weather. If it turns cold again, they can easily return underground. Because snakes are cold blooded, they have to raise their body temperature by way of the environment, specifically, the sun. For that reason, people will most frequently see the reptiles sunning themselves on a rock or cement. Putnam notes, "They are very susceptible to road kill because they are drawn up to roads because the pavement is warm. Part of a snake's daily requirement is getting access to warmth and sunlight, which helps them digest the food they have inside of them". Putnam asks everyone to "give a snake a break' and slow down on the roads and watch out for them. Do Not run over them. There are significant fines and charges for killing a rattlesnake in Alberta.


According to Putnam, rattlesnakes play a key role in our ecosystem, particularly in controlling the rodent population.


When walking along the west river valley or in areas that might be frequented by the snakes, keep any pets on a leash. If you encounter a rattlesnake, walk away from it slowly. Be sure to look where you are walking, just in case there is another one nearby. Give the snake plenty of room to escape from you.


Putnam explains, "The wonderful thing about rattle snakes, is that they are a very shy species and would prefer to get out of your way, even more than you would like to get out of their way. One of their first lines of defense, is the rattle on their tail, which sounds like a buzzing, raspy sound". She notes that it takes a rattler a lot of energy to produce the venom used in a bite so, striking out is only done when they are threatened or in a dire situation.


Rattle snake bites are uncommon in our area. If you are bitten, stay calm and get to the hospital. To Putnam's knowledge, there has never been a death due to a rattle snake bite in Lethbridge.


If you require a rattlesnake to be removed from your property or a recreational area near you, please call the Rattlesnake Call Line at 403-332-6806.


Posted on Wednesday, May 08, 2013 at 4/24/2014 3:22:25 PM
Source: Dori Modney (@Dori_Modney on Twitter) -- Country 95 News / Photos courtesy of Ken Orich
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