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How to be prepared during rattlesnake season in B.C.’s southern interior

Lack of anti-venom medication could leave pets at risk

As the summer sun beats down, you may see more snakes slithering around because it’s snake season, and to keep yourself and your pets safe this summer, you should be aware of where these creatures like to hang out.

The Northern Pacific rattlesnake found in B.C.’s dry southern interior valley carries venom. Not every snake will inject venom when it bites, but bites from these snakes can be very painful, according to WildSafe B.C.

When encountering a snake, people should avoid touching or moving them because it is dangerous and can be harmful to the snake. If a rattlesnake bites you or your pet, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, do not try to suck or extract the venom or put ice on the bite as it could lead to more swelling. ‘

Rattlesnakes typically hang around places with sagebrush and shrub-type habitats. Lisa Lopez, program manager, says the best way to stay safe from rattlesnakes is to be aware, listen for rattles, and remain clear once the snake is spotted.

“If you are in rattlesnake territory, wear long loose pants and high boots. You know, if you can’t see where you’re putting your hands and feet, don’t put them there,” said Lopez

If you suspect a rattlesnake has bitten your pet, the most critical thing is to remain calm. ‘In this situation, it is rare for animals to die from being bitten, but the sooner you can get your pet to a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, the better.’

Dr. Adrian Helmers of the Neighbourhood Veterinary Clinic in Kamloops says they are one of the two clinics in B.C. that carry anti-venom kits, which are an expensive import for veterinarians to acquire.

“In July, August [2022], we had about six cases that were referred to our clinic …Then I know Fairfield down in Kelowna had a few as well. They just posted something on social media that they had around 20 cases,” said Helmers.

The Fairfield Hospital in Kelowna is the second hospital. Kelowna also carries anti-venom kits. Helmers says there has been an increase in rattlesnake bites because of the rise of people owning pets post-pandemic

For more information on poison and non-poisonous snake bites, visit WildSafe B.C or their website by clicking here.

Lopez stressed the imporatnce of not bringing the snake along with you to indentify it. Rattlesnakes are listed as a blue species meaning they are protected by the provincal government and illegal to kill.

Merritt Nicola Valley & Healthcare Centre, Lillooet Hospital and Healthcare Centre, and Kamloops Royal Island Hospital are the three hospitals in B.C.’s southern interior that readily carry antivenom medication. In addition, the neighborhood Veterinary Clinic in Kamloops is the only clinic with antivenom for pets.

Symptoms of dogs or cats being bitten by a rattlesnake are swelling, whining, rubbing their face on the ground, or seizures.