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Rattlesnake Watch 2008

Lilly and I cut our Sunday morning walk short — partially because it was already hot-hot-hot and partially because our neighbor Debbie reported seeing TWO rattlesnakes on her walk. She got back just a bit before we left. THEN, when we got back home, another neighbor called.

Aaron across the street reported that Josie, that very young Lab that Lilly met on the road several weeks ago, got bit by a rattlesnake Saturday night, after 8 pm. Her family is out of town, but someone is staying with her. She’s spent the last couple days with the veterinarian. They think she’s going to be OK, despite her relatively small size, etc.

What’s weird is that it happened so late. Trust me, when the sun goes down in the valley, the temperature at this altitude drops. So, the only thing I can think of is that with near 100-degree temps lately, the snake stored up some good body heat and was out later than usual.

This is the second dog from that same family to be bitten since we moved up here in 2001. I’d be completely paranoid after one bite, never mind a second one. Last summer, we had one close call with a rattlesnake, but otherwise, we’ve never had any near to the house (that we know of).

Due to fire danger (which is super high this summer), Tom has already mowed our wild grasses back from the house. But, there are still some longer areas out on the edges of our property. Some people up here mow everything short, believing that it gives snakes nowhere to hide from hawks, etc., which they hope keeps them away from open areas.

Personally, I like a bit more of a natural look to the pastures, but we might have to cut back more, if these reports keep coming in.

For now, I’m keeping the dogs inside, unless one of us is with them, and when we are out, I’m keeping an eye (and an ear) peeled for any slithering and/or rattling sounds. Generally, if you don’t bug them, they won’t bug you, but if you surprise a rattler, it will strike.

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Rox - August 6, 2008

That’s interesting. I would have thought the exact opposite. I always figured the hot time of day was much more dangerous. Thanks for helping all of us learn.

I haven’t heard an update on Josie, but I did learn that another dog (a friend of a writer friend in CA) got struck by a rattler on Sunday and died this morning. So our hearts go out to her on her loss.

Claire - August 6, 2008

My thoughts are with that lab pup. Just a quick note — my understanding is that rattlers are more likely to strike (rather than flee) when they’re cooler. It’s a big disadvantage to them to give up their venom (it takes time to make more)so they tend to slither rapidly away if possible (they’re fast only when they’re hot). When I did search and rescue with my previous dog, I was taught that early mornings and evenings were most dangerous in terms of rattlers striking.

Val - August 6, 2008

I hope the lab girl is making a good recovery. I, like you, would have been paranoid after the first bite… I can’t imagine a second. The poor girl I hope she’s okay.

Rox - August 5, 2008

I saw that on your blog. It is scary to see one up close like that, coiled, etc. I do keep Lilly leashed, but we do sometimes have to dive off into the grass and such to avoid other dogs. I’ll just have to be better about looking before we leap.

Elayne - August 5, 2008

I had a run in with one over the weekend on a busy trail in Boulder. Thankfully I was without dogs and on my bike and able to get away before he could strike (he was half coiled up, rattling and facing me at close range when I passed) but yech I hate running into them. I try to keep the dogs leashed or altogether avoid places where I know it’s likely to see rattler.

Peggy - August 5, 2008

I hope your neighbor’s dog is okay. I’d be worried about rattlers too. We live in the city, but we have ribbon snakes in our yard. Kelly has captured two or three this summer, and it always frightens me to see her doing the Wild Kingdom thing.

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