Posts tagged: rattlesnakes
WILDLIFE — River rafters, hikers and hunters are keenly aware that rattlesnakes are common on portions of the Selway River.
But why are there virtually now rattlesnakes on the Lochsa River, which joins the Lochsa near Lowell, Idaho, to form the Middle Fork Clearwater River?
Eric Barker, outdoor writer for the Lewiston Tribune made a strike at answering that question in a recent story that pegged on the scene in a Norman Maclean story noting a rattle snake between Grave Peak and Elk Summit.
The Selway is lousy with rattlers and the snakes can be found at some unexpected places, said retired outfitter and packer Jim Renshaw of Kooskia, noting that he killed a rattlesnake on top of Fog Mountain at an elevation of 5,000-6,000 feet.
Chuck Peterson, a herpetologist at Idaho State University, told Barker that rattlers can be found at elevations that would surprise many people. He said it is possible they can survive at Elk Summit, which sits above 6,000 feet.
“Every now and then you get some snakes in some elevations you wouldn’t expect them,” he said. “I don’t know about up there but further south, I think the highest elevations (where rattlers have been found) are near 7,000 feet around Challis.”
Some rattlesnakes will climb a few thousand feet to hunt in the warm summer months, he said. But they generally can’t survive long term at such heights. The seasons there are too short for the females to build up enough energy reserves to reproduce.
“We found out in areas that have less than 58 frost-free days, that seems to be the cut off point.”
But aspect and exposure are important to consider. He said snakes can survive at higher elevations if they are on sun-rich southern exposures.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know why rattlers are in one spot and not another. The Lochsa and Selway rivers are a prime example. The Selway is known for its abundant rattlesnake population and the Lochsa is all but free of them.
Marty Smith of Three Rivers Rafting at Lowell has often wondered why. He has spent much of his life at Lowell where the two rivers join to form the Middle Fork of the Clearwater. He’s never seen one on the Lochsa and has rarely seen them less than 10 miles from the mouth of the Selway.
But starting at the falls and proceeding up stream they are common in some. When Smith is on the river he thinks carefully about where he places his hands and feet. On the Lochsa, he is much more relaxed.
“I’m always surprised I have never ran across any on the Lochsa and on the Selway of course I have seen hundreds of them, if not thousands,” he said. “It’s the same terrain. You walk around on the (Lochsa’s) river bank on a pile of driftwood or bark and I always say, ‘I’m glad I’m not on the Selway right now or I’d be more on my toes, I would probably walk around that.’ ”
In other words, nobody Barker contacted has yet figure out why rattlers draw the line at the Lochsa.
HIKING — A Spokane couple returning from a camping-hiking trip to Steamboat Rock State Park this weekend have several recommendations for folks who want to follow their footsteps:
1. Go now. The wildflowers are beautiful, with the balsamroot on the downward swing but bitterroots are just ready to bloom.
2. Keep the tent screen zipped closed. They found two rattlesnakes in camp, one huddled against their tent and one under their cooler.
3. Use hiking poles and if you hike with a dog, keep it on leash. They encountered two more rattlers on the trail while hiking to nearby Northrup Canyon. One was on the aggressive side, which is rare. But they felt more comfortable after they gathered up hiking sticks to thwart any advances. With their dog on leash, they had no problem.
WILDLIFE – A girl struck by a small rattlesnake in the Dishman Hills Natural Area required three days of hospital care despite getting to Valley Hospital for treatment within 40 minutes.
The 17 year old girl stepped off the trail while hiking with a friend in the northeast corner of the Valley natural area near 8th Avenue on June 1 and thought she was stung on the ankle by a bee.
Her father said she had no warning — perhaps she stepped on its tail — and that it wasn't until after it struck that the small snake crawled a few feet away rattling.
The snake was only 12-15 inches long. Experts say random rattlesnake bites are extremely rare. Most snake bites are the result of people trying to catch or handle the snake.
Doctors administered antivenin, but the swelling continued to get worse for 20 hours all the way up to her knee.
Doctors were at the brink of resorting to surgery to relieve the pressure when the swelling began to subside.
Two weeks later, her leg is almost normal.
Doctors gave the family this insight on rattlesnake bites during the treatment:
What the youths did correctly was to get to medical help as fast as possible, he said.
“Without quick treatment with antivenin, it could have been a lot worse.”
DANGEROUS WILDLIFE — The Clarkston Walmart had a special on rattlesnake bites Saturday.
A man says he reached down to pick up a stick lying in the gardening aisle of a Wal-Mart in Clarkston, Wash., only to discover that it was a rattlesnake that then bit his hand.
On the lighter side, some people are asking if the snake blended in because it was made in China?
Rattlesnakes very rarely are agressive except when disturbed. Most rattlenake bites occur when someone accidently puts a hand down near a snake, as in scrambling on rocks, or, more often, when someone intentionally tries to handle a snake.
The photo above was taken the same day in Montana by wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson.
The warm weather is letting the snakes be active.
WILDLIFE — A rattlesnake that slithered near a Kennewick playground on Thursday was quickly dispatched by a police officer and tossed in the Columbia River.
According to the Associated Press, a Seattle couple called 911 when they spotted the snake moving in the grass near the playground. Families cowered in their cars until the police arrived.
My God, was the snake toting an AK-47? Was it chasing people? No.
Read on for the rest of the AP report. Sheesh.
NOT QUITE RAGING REPTILES — Despite the fear and loathing rattlesnakes provoke, they fight like gentlemen among themselves.
Ray Sasser of the Dallas Morning News described; a spring battle between two male western rattlers vying for mating rights to a nearby female.
The snakes were about the same size – each about 4 feet long – and engaged in a bout that lasted about 20 minutes.
“The rattlers are not immune to their own venom,” Sasser points out. “Out of professional courtesy, they don’t bite one another. They instead perform what amounts to an arm wrestling bout, which sounds weird for an animal that doesn’t have arms.
“Rattlers make up for the lack of appendages by substituting their bodies for arms, rearing as high as possible off the ground and trying to force their opponent into submission.”
FLY FISHING – Last week, while fly fishing on Rocky Ford Creek north of Moses Lake, Pat Kendall of Spokane was startled to walk up on a rattlesnake coiled on a large flat rock.
“It’s mouth was open ready to strike and its tail was up ready to rattle,” he recounted, noting that the surprise rattled the hackle on his Stimulator.
“I froze and the snake seemed to do the same. I then backed away, touched the snake with my fly rod, and discovered it was plastic.
“Some joker had pulled a good one on me, putting the snake in just the right place. I’m sure he scared a bunch of others.”
Kendall didn’t think twice about what to do.
“The snake’s still there doing its thing,” he said.
Indeed, I've heard from two more anglers who have cured their hiccups as they stumbled onto the fake ankle biter, including Jerry McBride of Spokane, who calmed down enough to snap and share the photo above.