Monday, September 01, 2008

"Shake, Rattle and...uh....Run!!!"

I clearly remember the deer-in-the-headlight look I must have had...Mercy and I were going up a gravel road, Mercy ahead by 20 feet...and I walked within 4 feet of the safer end of what was not a stick.

Mind you, I'm out in nature a lot, and have been most of my life. I was a science teacher for 9 years, and I've seen a lot of different critters and scenes that run the gamut. It's just been a good many years since I've come up against a rattler. Thankfully, Mercy never saw it and listened to me to stay away.

Say hello to a widespread resident in North Carolina, the Canebrake Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). Well, that's what I call it as it was considered to be a separate sub-species of Timber Rattlesnake until recently. The bottom line is it's a pit viper, poisonous, and should never be invited over for a bite to eat. I have no idea if it tastes like chicken nor do I care to find out...

(click on pics to enlarge)

It has been said this is a more docile variant of was ~2pm, plenty warm, and this snake was barely moving. It actually took a couple of minutes to finally pull into the grassy edge of the road and coil, then rattling that tell-tale chattering that will make an experienced woodsman freeze faster than rain in 27 degree temperatures (a la the Piedmont NC ice storm of December 2002).

I was a good 10 feet away from its coil for the shot above, Mercy not interested and far behind, and nobody else around to pester it. Snakes are killed unnecessarily, and all I did was stand and watch it do it's thing. Yeah, they're potentially deadly, but so are most drivers. I took my pictures and went on my way. (At the end of this blog is a Brule Lakota legend about why they don't kill rattlesnakes...)

It did make me stop and think a lot the rest of the afternoon Saturday...I'm aware snakes could be in most places I go, but it becomes a minor, suppressed thought over time. No doubt I will have a new level of awareness when I'm out, especially in that area.

Do you know what is proper first-aid for snakebites? I honestly wasn't sure, as through my several decades alive it has changed. And so I searched on-line so I'd know should the unfortunate emergency arise. These rattlesnakes' venom is 'hemotoxic', meaning it attacks tissues, organs, and causes clotting issues in the bloodstream. Yes, it can be lethal, and the longer it takes to get medical help, the greater the chance of having serious tissue and limb damage. According to a Wikipedia entry, around 8,000 venemous bites and 15 deaths are reported each year. If bitten you should...

1. Sit as still as possible, even immobilizing the bitten limb if you can or need to...movement just pumps the blood faster...not a good thing.

2. Call 911 or seek immediate help...timing is critical.

3. Concentrate on keeping your stress level as down as possible with deep breaths and focused mental energy on some scene that you can use to hopefully become trance-like. Pain and swelling begin quickly in most cases.

4. Keep the bite area lower than the heart (as in sitting up as opposed to lying down).

5. Do NOT use ice.

6. Do NOT use a tourniquet.

7. Do NOT attempt to lance the bite and suck blood out - only THE most of trained experts should try this (unless you cannot reach help and it's a life or death situation)

Basically, you need antivenom in you ASAP. I happened to be at a large store parking lot Sunday and saw some EMS personnel talking outside their truck, and thought I'd go ask them what they would suggest. They dittoed the above. Always good to brush up on knowledge for those 'what if' situations should they arise.

This snake was one of the smaller ones at just 3-feet long, but it's diameter was at least 2.5 inches...stout snakes they are. FYI, you can't judge a rattlesnake's age by the number of rattles on its tail. I did judge all I needed to from it's tail, of course - the fact that it buzzed quite loudly and to keep away!


The Brule Lakota (Teton Sioux tribe) never kill goes back to an old legend about three brothers who disobeyed the Great Spirit by taking a buffalo hide instead of offering it back to the spirit world. The Great Spirit turned them into rattlesnakes. As they took up life as snakes they told their youngest brother to tell the people that they would remain faithful Lakota. So, the Brule Lakota revere their brothers, the rattlesnake to this day.


The tropics are pumpin' as well it should as we near the statistical peak of Atlantic hurricane activity at the end of September's first week. Here in the Carolinas, we've got to keep our eye on Hanna which is forecast to be a hurricane and heading toward Savannah, GA by the end of this coming week. Lots of weather stories ahead for ye weather mongerers!

Happy Labor Day, y'all!!!


Anonymous said...

Let's hope that Hanna does not live up to her name: "Hard hearted Hanna, the vamp of Savannah, GA."

Bob Child said...

Preliminary look has noon arrival there as a Cat 1...bigger problem I see is leftover 'depression' is forecast to head toward Brevard, NC and slow down for the weekend ....serious potential flooding in mtns. and escarpment areas. I think I smell fill-in work coming up if I want it!!!