Rattlesnake season strikes

OKANOGAN — Rattlesnake season has struck the Okanogan Valley.

Throughout the past few weeks some local residents have reported seeing snakes or hearing their distinctive ratting sounds.

While the vast majority of snakes found throughout the state are considered harmless, a few species are capable of delivering a venomous bite, including the western rattlesnake.

The western rattlesnake is common in much of eastern Washington. It is distinguished by its broad, triangular head that is much wider than its neck, the diamond-shaped pattern along the middle of its back and the rattles on the tip of its tail. Overall color patterns differ with habitat, ranging from olive to brown to gray. Black and white crossbars may occur on the tail.

The number of segments on the rattle does not indicate the true age of the snake, since rattlesnakes lose portions of their rattles as they age.

Rattlesnakes are most common near their den areas, which are generally in rock crevices exposed to sunshine. They are most likely to be seen at night and dusk during the spring and fall when moving to and from hibernation sites.

Rattlesnake fangs are hollow and used to inject the snake’s venom in order to stun or kill their prey. Their fangs are shed and replaced several times during their active season. Fangs may also be lost by becoming embedded in prey, or be broken off by other means.

These species are typically limited to regions east of the Cascade Mountains, and bites from one of the venomous species can be life threatening. Officials say any potential rattlesnake bite should be evaluated in the emergency room as soon as possible.

A person who has been bitten should remain calm and call the Washington Poison Center at 800-222-1222 or call 911, the center advises. The offered some tips:

• Do not attempt to capture the snake. Taking a photograph may be helpful in identifying the snake, but should not be done if it puts someone at risk of another bite.

• Do not attempt to extract or remove the venom from the bite.

• Do not apply tourniquets or ice packs to the bite site or affected limb

• If possible, restrict movement of the affected limb.

• Remove any rings, jewelry or other items that may cause constriction if swelling occurs.


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