BLOG / MASSASUGA RATTLESNAKE BITES ON THE RISE
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Vacationers and those living in the Georgian Bay and Bruce Penninsula area are urged by the Ministry of Natural Resources to take extra precautions this year due to an unusual number of reported Massasuaga Rattlesnake bites.
The Eastern Massasuga Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake residing in Ontario. So far this summer there have been six confirmed cases of humans being bitten by a Massasauga. According to the MNR this number is unusual for this time of year. Usually there are no confirmed cases before August first.
A MNR biologist predicts the reason for the human-snake interactions is a result of the weather. We experienced a cooler wet June with cold evenings. This keeps the snakes upland out of the wetlands where you humans are more likely to stumble across this venomous species of snake. For the most part, the snakes keep to themselves and don’t generally associate with people. They use camouflage as a defense mechanism to keep them hidden, and the rattle sound to let people know where they are.
Even though the Eastern Massasuga Rattlesnake is a dangerous breed, it is important to know not to harm them. This species is protected under the Species at Risk Act meaning a $250,000 fine or up to five years in jail if you intentionally kill a Massasuaga.
Parks Canada suggests to those worried, to take extra precautions when hiking. Learn to identify snakes and wear protective shoes, hiking boots, and long pants. The most common areas for bites to happen are the toes, legs, and ankles. If you are bitten by a snake it is best to remain calm. Try to identify the snake as best you can without picking it up. Movement increases blood flow and the flow of venom through the body, try and splint the infected limb to reduce movement. If possible try and keep it below the heart. It is important to note that you DO NOT apply a tourniquet, ice, or suction to the bite area. Notify a park employee as soon as possible or make your way to the hospital as soon as possible.
Make sure your pets are safe as well. It is more common for a dog to get bitten by a Massasuga. Make sure you keep your dogs close or on leash when venturing into the bush. If they do get attacked, carry them or try to splint the limb and take them to a veterinary hosiptal immediately. DO NOT apply at tourniquet, ice, or suction to the infected area.
There have been two cases of people being bitten by a Massasuga resulting in death, those people did not receive treatment for their bites.
For more information on Massasuga Rattlesnakes.
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