Are Baby Rattlesnakes Really Most Dangerous Biters?

Are Baby Rattlesnakes Really Most Dangerous Biters?

Are Baby Rattlesnakes Really Most Dangerous Biters?

Snakes of all kinds are active now that spring has finally arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the only local species that poses a serious health danger to humans, the western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus). For the past few months, these vipers have been holed up in their hibernacula, but now they’re on the move to their breeding grounds in search of food and mates, which means they’re more likely to come into contact with humans.

Reports say the snake was between nine and twelve inches long, which indicates it was a juvenile. When it comes to rattlesnakes, traditional opinion is that the younger the snake, the more lethal the bite. Is there any truth to this prevalent assumption, despite the fact that it’s a fun fact to recite?

Herpetologist Greg Pauly of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County says the myth that young rattlesnakes are more dangerous is “folklore.” Young rattlers are unable to control the amount of venom they inject, which means they will inject all of it; while adults are more experienced and so less likely to “waste” their venom when defending themselves, injecting less venom or giving a “dry” bite that does not contain any.

Even if it is true that juvenile rattlers cannot regulate their poison, Pauly explains that “larger snakes have considerably bigger venom sacs, and adults can deliver far greater amounts of venom than babies even if they only inject a small percentage of the total volume available.” Adult rattlesnakes have a much greater chance of inflicting serious harm than their juvenile counterparts.

Baby Rattlesnakes Pictures

Baby Rattlesnakes Pictures

Baby Rattlesnakes Pictures

 

Pauly told me that “there isn’t good data to imply that the frequency of dry bites varies between age groups” when it comes to rattlesnakes. However, a study by Dr. Donald Janes and his colleagues at Lynchburg General Hospital in California, which examined nine years’ worth of snakebite cases in Southern California, found that “Rattlesnake size was positively connected with [Snakebite Severity Score]… bigger snakes and more severe envenomation were found to necessitate longer hospital stays, as well as more antivenom vials.

If bitten by a rattlesnake, the victim should be taken to the hospital immediately, and cutting or sucking the wound is a bad idea. There is a lot of good tips here about dealing with a rattlesnake sting.

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Of course, the best way to avoid being bitten is to avoid it in the first place. This fearsome reptile will only strike if left with little choice, such as if handled carelessly or trodden on unintentionally. That famed rattle’s sole aim is to prevent the snake from being in a situation where it has to bite, which I think is thoughtful. When a person knowingly or unintentionally handles a rattlesnake, they are more likely to be bitten than if they are accidentally bitten (yes, attempting to kill a rattlesnake is much more dangerous than leaving it alone).

Males and young men are the most common victims of the latter attacks. Don’t handle a snake unless you have a lot of expertise with snakes and know what to look for (and it is against the rules of most parks to handle or harass wildlife). Gopher, night, and juvenile yellow-bellied racers all have the appearance of a rattler in the Bay Area, and young rattlesnakes are more common in the spring since they don’t have a rattle on their tails. Don’t be afraid to walk away from the snake if you’re not sure what to do.

To avoid being bitten by a snake in rattlesnake habitat, you should also keep an eye out for rock formations and outcrops. When climbing on rocks, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, who use these regions as both shelters and basking spots. You may be basking in the sun, but a rattlesnake may be trying to do the same.

Avoidance and awareness are the best ways to avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake in the Bay Area. Make room for the snake if you happen upon one in the wild and take a time to appreciate its beauty. To share our home with one of nature’s most exquisite and charming predators is a great honour.

 

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