Snakes are magnificent, ancient creatures, but unfortunately rattlesnakes are poisonous and cannot be tolerated around the home. Much as I appreciate a beautiful snake, I appreciate my children more. I have lived in rattlesnake country for nearly 20 years and have not been bit yet.
If you discover a rattler near your home, you don't necessarily need to kill it to get rid of it. First, and most important, secure children and pets inside your house immediately. If you have livestock then secure animals far away from the rattler. I have chased off many rattlers with the garden house. I kid you not. They hate cold water. Just keep your distance. Stand at least 15 feet behind the rattler and spray it with a high pressure hose. The snake will run away. Keep spraying it for as long as you can while keeping your distance. More often than not, you will never see that rattler again. But do be cautious. Watch for the snake for several days. Check all around the house before letting children or animals out every day for at least a week. Remain vigilant until you are certain the snake is gone.
If the rattler returns, even once, you need to kill it. Some rattlers are persistent and will return to a favored spot. If you have a local Fish and Game Agency that can help, then call them immediately to deal with the snake, and steer well clear of it while it is around. If you have a gun and you are a good shot, you can shoot it, but keep your distance. If a rattler is coiled, then it is prepared to strike, and rattlers move fast. I have killed my share of rattlers, usually using a long-handled wood axe, with which I chopped the snake's head off. To do this, I stood behind the snake, which was not coiled, and delivered one sharp, swift blow just behind the head. I confess that I once did this while wearing flip-flops, but I recommend that you wear hiking boots in case you miss and the rattler turns on you (and you wouldn't want to chop your own toe off by accident). I have never missed. My husband once killed a rattler by hitting it hard in the head with a shovel. Obviously we don't own a gun and we are slightly crazy country hicks. After you kill a rattler, it will continue to move for some time, which is pretty creepy, but once decapitated, it can't bite you. If you have a teen-aged boy or ten-year-old tomboy girl, you will make your child's day by letting him/her watch the dead rattler writhe around.
Baby rattlers (and younger rattlers) are more likely to cause harm or death with a bite because they release all their venom on the first strike. They don't know any better. Adult rattlers reserve some of their venom so the strike is less deadly. In the event that a person is bit by a rattler, keep them calm and immobile. The more they move around, the faster the venom will spread in the bloodstream. A bite in the foot is not as dangerous as a bite in the face, which can cause the throat to swell, leading to asphyxiation. Get medical help immediately. Sucking the venom out is a cowboy fairytale-what a bite victim needs is a shot of anti-venom and a really good painkiller.
Tip: Rattlers eat rodents, so if you want to keep them away from your house then keep your mouse population down. A good barn cat is worth gold in this regard.
Tips & Warnings
- Rattlers eat rodents, so if you want to keep them away from your house then keep your mouse population down. A good barn cat is worth gold in this regard.
- King snakes look like rattlers but they don't have the rattles on their tail. King snakes eat rattlesnakes, so don't kill a king snake near your house.
- Rattlers can move fast. If it is coiled, it is prepared to strike. Keep your distance.
- Photo Credit Photograph by Chris Johns
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