Bite back against snakes with smarts, education on attacks

As farmers ready for harvest and hikers hit the trails as temperatures cool off, one annual fear that looms along the back burner will start to creep forward: Rattlesnakes.

While the danger associated with the venomous creature shouldn’t hamper any end-of-the-summer plans, it is important to be educated on where the snakes might be and what makes a bite so dangerous — or possibly not threatening at all. 

Bob Gibson, the information and education manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said there are a lot of different factors that play into where one might encounter a rattlesnake.

“This time of year, we can start getting some cooler evenings at night, and in that case, the snakes get out in the daytime on the rocks where it’s nice and sunny,” Gibson said. “They don’t necessarily do that right now, but where one’s going to want to watch for them are places with a little more water or any place there are rocks or pray — like mice — there’s an opportunity for rattlesnakes.”

Rattlesnakes aren’t looking to eat humans for dinner, but they are ready to protect themselves at all costs. Gibson said most of the time, when a rattlesnake attacks, it’s because a person literally stepped on the snake or got a little to close. Being mindful of where you’re walking is the best action when heading to the outdoors. 

In the event of an attack

While education will only get a person so far, there are immediate actions to be taken in the event of a rattlesnake bite. 

An urgent trip to Pioneer Medical Center should be at the top of anyone’s list, should they encounter and be bitten by a rattlesnake. While PMC doesn’t stock the anti-venom used to cure venomous bites, CEO Gary Hamilton said the emergency room is more than equipped to handle and treat the initial stages of a rattlesnake bite.

As a patient is being treated, PMC professionals will evaluate the best course of action, which will include a trip to the nearest facility that does have anti-venom in stock. 

Livingston HealthCare has treated five bites known to be from rattlesnakes this summer, but not all have required anti-venom treatment. 

For more of this story, pick up a copy of this week’s Big Timber Pioneer on newsstands now, or subscribe online at




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