Life of a Ranch Wife

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation states that Oklahoma is home to 46 species of snakes. (Photo by Lanna Mills)

By Lanna Mills

The temperatures are rising, the grass is greening up and flowers and trees are blooming. However, this warm weather brings more than just the sweet smell of wild plums blooming and pretty landscapes. It also brings out those creepy crawlers and slithering serpents that have been hiding from the cold.Some of these critters can be quite annoying or cause you to startle. However, others can be downright dangerous. Snakes are some of the dangerous critters we must watch for as we are playing or working outdoors.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation states that Oklahoma is home to 46 species of snakes. Of these 46 species, seven are venomous and of those seven, five are rattlesnakes. These five are the Prairie Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake, Western Pygmy Rattlesnake, Western Massasauga (often called the “sand rattler” or “ground rattler”) and the most well-known, the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake.

Rattlesnakes are feared by many and with good reason. A rattlesnake bite can be a death sentence. They are aggressive, and unlike some other creatures, they will stand their ground and fight rather than try to escape when they feel threatened.

Rattlesnakes have one of the most deadly bites in the world. The venom contains hemotoxic elements that damage tissue and affect the circulatory system by destroying skin tissues, blood cells and causing internal hemorrhaging. Their venom may also contain neurotoxic components that immobilize the nervous system and affect breathing.

Rattlesnake bites require immediate medical attention (within 30 minutes). If possible when bitten, wash the bite, immobilize the area, keep it lower than the heart, and remove tight clothing or jewelry. Many folks, including myself, live a good distance from a hospital so “immediate” medical attention can be impossible. In such circumstances, it is advised by the American Red Cross to wrap a bandage four inches above the bite to slow the venom, but not tight enough to cut off blood flow.

Though many snake bites are a result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, like cleaning out a flowerbed to plant new flowers for spring or reaching to grab a T-post from a pile, not knowing that a rattlesnake is there. Some snake bites are due to people handling snakes and getting bit.

Several Oklahoma towns hold annual rattlesnake festivals. At these festivals you can hunt for rattlesnakes, take a bus tour to view a den of snakes, get your picture taken with a rattlesnake, watch as someone enters a pit full of snakes, learn to butcher one and even try a taste.

If snakes aren’t really your thing, that is okay, too. These festivals have plenty of vendors selling items, carnival rides and yummy carnival food including funnel cakes and corn dogs. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, don’t worry; there is always next year.

Read the May issue to learn more!