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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don’t allow a rattle to disrupt your next paddle

Snakes have gotten a bad rap since that incident in Eden...

At the aptly-named Rattlesnake Bar near Folsom Lake (2015)
….and there are already a number of rattlesnake bite stories around Northern California this year. Kayakers need to stay alert whenever they launch or land in areas with brush, rocks or near downed timber, since that’s prime snake habitat.

But the rap on rattlers is unfair. An increase in snake sightings and incidents this spring may be traced to unusually wet conditions that have prompted an explosion in the rodent population. Rattlers and other snakes are great rodent predators. Since rodents are a prime carrier for ticks (Lyme disease) the Hantavirus and other risks to human health, snakes are beneficial.
Photo from Facebook...why not live and let lie? 

Although snakes are rarely aggressive toward humans unless surprised, the same cannot be said of us two-legged types. A recent posting on Facebook showed a paddler holding up a dead rattler. While the circumstances were not explained, my reaction: “Was this really necessary?” Rattlesnakes can swim, but it’s pretty unlikely for one to climb aboard a kayak.

The best strategy is to avoid encounters by watching your step in the wild. Don’t put hands or feet around rocks or brush without a clear view of the surroundings. Rattlers don’t always rattle before they strike, and young snakes without rattles are actually the most dangerous, because they haven’t learned to limit their release of venom.

If you or a paddling companion are bitten, health authorities warn that some traditional recommendations are outdated. Don’t try to suck the venom out or cut the wound. Stay calm, avoid exertion, keep the wound below heart level and get medical attention as quickly as possible.

For more information on rattlesnakes and snakebite treatment, check authoritative health sites such as the California Poison Control SystemHealthline, and WebMD.  More general info and tips for non-lethal rattler control are available from the University of California

© 2017 Glenn Brank