The Eastern Massassauga Rattlesnake Recovery Team want to give some tips so both snakes and people can co-exist this summer. The team says there is an increase in encounters in July and August as the warmer temperature brings out the snakes and an increased population to the Georgian Bay region. Many bites occur as a result of people engaging in risky behaviour such as trying to capture or kill the rattlesnake which is dangerous and illegal with fines for capturing and killing the snakes. The federal Species at Risk Act and the provincial Endangered Species Act protect Massasaugas from being harassed, captured, killed, bought, or sold and violation of either Act can result in a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year. The West Parry Sound Health Centre operates Ontario’s Massasauga Rattlesnake Antivenom Depot and anyone getting bit is urged to attend the health centre as soon as possible.

How can I avoid snakebite?

• Do not pick up snakes (or other wild animals). This is frequently the cause of ‘provoked’ snakebites.

• Stay on the ‘beaten path’ when walking in rattlesnake habitat and use a flashlight at night.

• Always wear close-toed boots or shoes when hiking. The Massasauga has relatively small fangs that are not likely to penetrate leather-hiking boots or loose clothing.

• Always watch where you put your hands and feet – do not reach into areas where you cannot see.

• If you hear a rattlesnake, stop moving and determine the snake’s location. Slowly step away and give the snake room to move away.

• Protect your pets – keep dogs on a leash when walking though rattlesnake habitat.

 What do I do if I get bitten?

• Stay calm and don’t panic. Not all bites result in venom being injected. One quarter of all rattlesnake bites are “dry” bites. Stay calm and reduce movement. Clean the wound. Remove jewelery on the affected limb.

• Do not apply ice or a tourniquet, and do not cut or apply suction to the bite area.

• Call emergency services (911) and get to a hospital as quickly and safely as possible.