Rattlesnakes are out of hibernation and more visible in Lethbridge

Click to play video: 'Experts offer tips about rattlesnake safety in southern Alberta' Experts offer tips about rattlesnake safety in southern Alberta
WATCH ABOVE: As the weather goes up in southern Alberta, so too does the number of rattlesnakes slithering out and about. Malika Karim has some tips and tricks to help avoid an unwanted encounter – May 16, 2018

A change in season and warmer weather means rattlesnake sightings could increase, according to Lethbridge’s resident snake expert, Ryan Heavy Head.

“If you see motorcycles on the road, you might run into rattlesnakes in the coulees,” the City of Lethbridge’s ecological consultant said on Wednesday.

“Rattlesnakes, right now, are leaving their winter dens — their communal winter dens — and they’re going off to their individual summer haunts. Snakes are going in all directions away from the dens, some towards the river, some up on the highlands.”

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Last week, Heavy Head was called to five rattlesnake sightings in one day, something that is unusual for this time of year.

“Typically, I get the five calls during the mating part of the year, which is mid-summer,” he said. “But then, we had such a prolonged icy winter period, and then it just broke, and it broke automatically into summer.”

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WATCH: Report points to urban development in Lethbridge for spike in rattlesnake encounters

Click to play video: 'Report points to urban development in Lethbridge for spike in rattlesnake encounters' Report points to urban development in Lethbridge for spike in rattlesnake encounters
Report points to urban development in Lethbridge for spike in rattlesnake encounters – Oct 5, 2017

Rattlesnakes will mostly be hanging out in tall grassy areas off main trails and rural habitats. If you do see one in urban areas, you can call the city at 403-332-6806 to have them relocated.

Experts say if you see one while hiking, give them plenty of space.

“Give them a wide berth,” said Curtis Goodman, resource development coordinator at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. “They really want nothing to do with us and the more space that we can give them, the more at ease they’re going to feel.”

Other tips while out in high grass areas include:

  • not running when you see a snake – rather walking away while looking for others,
  • not wearing headphones so you can hear their rattle
  • trying to wear sturdy, closed-toe footwear

“It’s best to wear loose-fitting pants,” Goodman added. “That way, you’ve got a little bit of space between you and the snake if you were to get close enough and it were to strike at you, chances are good with a loose-fitting pant, you’ll just have their venom running down the inside of your pants.”

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And after you’ve gotten over your initial fear, Goodman says to really take in the experience.

“I would really recommend to enjoy the moment,” Goodman said. “I’ve talked to so many people that live here in Lethbridge and they’ve never seen a rattlesnake before.”

If by chance you do get bitten, experts say to remain calm and get to the hospital as soon as you can, adding you should never try to suck or cut the venom out as it is very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

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