Summer season time to be cautious of snakes

Out at Fort Keogh last week, Doug Melton from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was bitten by a rattlesnake. 

“I never saw it,” said Melton. “There was no warning at all.”

 Melton was transported to Holy Rosary Healthcare by the group he was with, making it to the hospital within a half a hour of getting bit.

Melton received the anti-venom to combat the snakes’ bite, but there were complications from the anti-venom and was life flighted to Billings for more observation.

Melton was back in Fort Keogh by that Sunday though. Melton didn’t seem to think that there were more rattlesnakes this year than there have been in the past.

“The first one I saw was on April third, that was a little early,” said Melton

Brandi Skone, a Wildlife Biologist from Fish Wildlife and Parks heard about Melton’s bite, but she hasn’t seen any rattlesnakes so far this season.

“I had heard that there have been more sightings, but I haven’t seen any,” said Skone who is an avid hiker.

Skone said there is a good possibility that the rattlesnake population is doing well, like everything else in the area. The numbers have increased with the mild winters we have had for the last few years. “Their prey is doing well, so there would be plenty of things for them to eat, but again I have no way of [knowing] if the numbers have changed without monitoring the population,” said Skone.

Western Rattlesnake bites are unquestionably dangerous and potentially fatal, so care should be taken to avoid them in areas where rattlesnakes are common. Rattlesnake venom is primarily hemolytic, but it is also myotoxic and neurotoxic.

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a snake, stay calm. The more excited you get the faster the venom and it effects spread. Try to immobilize where you got bit, but do not use a tourniquet. Call for help and get to a hospital. 

It is important to know that if bitten you should not elevate bite above heart level, suck venom from the bite, apply ice or try to capture or kill the snake. 

Hospitals in Eastern Montana who stock rattlesnake anti-venom are: Baker, Billings, Glendive, Miles City, Sidney, Terry, and Wolf Point.

Melton will continue to spend time in Fort Keogh for work and pleasure, but is thinking about picking up a pair of snake gators.

“Make sure you are aware while you are out. Be scanning where you’re walking,” said Melton.

Skone, wants those that are older to remember that it might be harder to hear the rattle—which snakes often make before striking.

“They really need to be careful and look where they’re stepping, and wear protective clothing fit they plan to be in habitat commonly associated with rattlesnakes,” said Skone.