As soon as the warmer weather hits, we’re chomping at the bit to get out there and enjoy all of the sunshine and adventure that summertime in the Black Hills can bring. The Black Hills can carry their own personal brand of danger in the outdoors: the dreaded rattlesnake encounter.
Western South Dakotan rattlesnakes are known as “Prairie Rattlesnakes,” or Crotalus viridis. By early to mid-May, these slithering creatures begin slithering from their dens in search of food, water, mates, and temporary shelter. During this time your chance of a rattlesnake encounter increases. Prairie Rattlesnakes can be found away from their overwintering areas throughout spring and fall: the temperate rattler seasons.
Prairie Rattlesnakes can be found in all areas of Western South Dakota, but this does not mean you should not adventure outside when the weather is beautiful or you want to hike trails. By following these snake safety tips you will protect yourself from the threat of the rattlesnake with these helpful snake safety tips:
Snake Safety Tip # 1
You should never hike or go camping alone, because there may be an emergency and you will not be able to get help quickly. If you are alone out there on the trail or camping, make sure you have a cell phone with you in case of emergencies. However, if you’re bitten in an area of the Hills with limited cell phone service, the buddy system might be your only saving grace. This is the number one key to snake safety.
Snake Safety Tip #2
Being able to identify the Prairie Rattlesnake in comparison to other snakes, is another top snake safety tip.
The Prairie Rattlesnake is the only injurious snake found in western South Dakota, although many others may surprise or even shock you if they slithered across your path. How can you identify the Prairie Rattlesnake? The Prairie Rattlesnake is best identified by the rattling sound it resonates. While out hiking, keep your ears open and alert for that unmistakable sound. Visually, watch out for a rattle (of course), brown and tan coloring, a thicker body, and a flat, triangular head. It’s best to identify by sound first, before your rattlesnake encounter brings you close enough for visual identification…
Snake Safety Tip #3
Surprisingly, rattlesnakes are not aggressive creatures. If you end up crossing one while trekking around in the great outdoors, it is best to just leave him alone. You should also not panic and warn anyone you are with about the danger near you.
Snake Safety Tip #4
If you are bit, you should try not to panic. While this may seem impossible it will actually help you in the long run. If you panic, your heart rate will increase. The faster your heart rate, the quicker the venom will move through your bloodstream and contaminate you.
Regulating your breath will help you stay calm. You should also walk towards help, although it may be tempting to run, immediately notify a buddy, or if you have cell phone service call 911. Walk slowly towards help, don’t run, and try to call for assistance if you’re alone and your cell phone gets reception. The key is to get to an emergency room as quickly as possible without quickening your pulse.
How do we cohabitate with the Prairie Rattlesnake? By respecting their space, steering clear of their domain, and heeding the telltale signs of a rattle that feels threatened by our presence.
The most obvious snake safety tip you can heed in order to avoid an unfortunate rattlesnake encounter is to remain constantly aware that they are out there—sunning their cold-blooded bodies in the summer heat, minding their own business. You best course of action while out hiking is to stay alert and don’t bother the wildlife.
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