wilDLIFE in our area
Rattlesnakes: Fact and Fiction
By Ilene Smith, Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area
There are thirty-two species of rattlesnakes in the US. Although rattlesnakes are commonly seen in the Oregon High Desert, only one species of rattlesnake, the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus), is actually found here. Adding to the confusion, there are two subspecies of Western Rattlers, the brown to greenish brown Northern Pacific (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) and the Great Basin (Crotalus oreganus lutosus). The Northern Pacific rattlesnake is indigenous to western, central and northeastern Oregon. The Great Basin rattlesnake, covered in small tan oval blotches, is mostly found in desert areas of southeastern Oregon. Both subspecies blend in very well to their respective geographic areas.
Coexisting with these venomous reptiles takes some situational awareness when hiking, gardening and doing other outdoor activities. Just being aware, especially in the spring and fall, is the most important step to prevent a snake bite (envenomation). Spring is when rattlesnakes are emerging from their winter dens, and fall is the birthing season. If you do encounter a rattlesnake, just back up quietly and allow the snake to make an exit away from you.
The rattlesnake, one of the most feared reptiles, is also largely misunderstood. A common misconception is that a rattlesnake will chase or follow you. This is a myth. Rattlesnakes will attempt to retreat or escape, if possible, rather than strike a human. Rattlesnakes do not want to waste energy or venom on a non-food source (e.g., a human). They are more inclined to save their valuable venom for a food source. In the rare situation where a person is bitten, they have a 25% chance of a “dry strike” which means the rattlesnake did not inject any venom.
Another common myth is that juvenile rattlesnakes can’t control their venom quantity and therefore are more dangerous than adult rattlesnakes. Actually, juvenile rattlesnakes have the ability to control their venom load at birth. This has been proven through many well documented studies. Generally, the larger the rattlesnake, the more severe the envenomation will be.
What to Do if Bitten by a Rattlesnake (tips by one of the leading toxicologists in the US*)
• Get away from the snake. No need to hurt the snake or try to capture it for subsequent identification; the antivenom works for all rattlesnakes found in the US.
• Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry.
• Keep the affected extremity at or above heart level.
• Get to an appropriate medical facility as soon as possible to receive antivenom treatment.
• DO NOT cut or suck the wound!
• DO NOT apply a tourniquet!
• DO NOT apply heat!
• DO NOT apply ice for more than 5 minutes (reapply only after ten minutes)!
• DO NOT use any suction device on the wound!
Should You Get Your Dog Vaccinated?
The rattlesnake vaccine for canines is controversial. Recent studies suggest that they do not “buy time” to get to the vet. A study of 272 cases of rattlesnake envenomations in dogs found the vaccine did not prove effective. (See: Rattlesnake Vaccine Study)
In fact, some data suggests there may be an increased risk of anaphylaxis in dogs that are bitten by a rattlesnake following vaccination. (See: Anaphylaxis in Vaccinated Dogs)
Finally, the vaccine is only conditionally licensed by the USDA. This means the manufacturer has failed to demonstrate efficacy and potency, and as a result, the USDA has not granted the drug full approval.
Regardless of vaccination status, any dog that has been bitten by a rattlesnake, should immediately be evaluated at one of the two Central Oregon emergency pet clinics that carry antivenom: Bend Animal Emergency clinic 541-385-9110 or Veterinary Referral Center of Central Oregon 541-210-9200.
*Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAACT, FAAEM is a board-certified medical toxicologist and emergency physician. He is a Clinical Professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine and director of toxicology at HCA Kingwood in Texas. Dr. Greene is a recognized expert in the management of snake envenomation in the US. He has treated more than 1,000 snakebites at the bedside and has authored more than 50 scholarly articles and book chapters. He has also served as the course director for the Houston Venom Conference since 2013.
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
By Cindy Murray, Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area
Love Them or Hate Them!
Most of us have experienced the disappointment of strolling through our vegetable and flower gardens only to discover there’s nothing left! Deer seem to sense (more likely smell) exactly the moment you set out all your summer petunias and next morning – wiped out. You have probably determined by now that our native Mule Deer are herbivorous and depend upon a wide variety of plants and shrubs. In addition to your gardens, deer will browse nearly all of our native plants, including juniper.
Could you guess that mule deer are so named because they have large ears resembling those of mules? Mule deer are among our most beloved and iconic wildlife, not only here in Crooked River Ranch but throughout western North America. On the conservation scale, deer are of least concern in becoming endangered. Our deer population will increase and decrease according to rainfall and drought. Sometimes diseases, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, can also cause a decline in their numbers, especially fawns.
Mule deer males are known as bucks or stags and weigh between 120-330 pounds, while females are does, weighing 95-200 pounds. During the months of October through early December is the breeding season and often described as the rut. Mule deer does generally give birth to a single or twin fawns in about 205 days, almost 7 months later during early summer. They weigh around 6 pounds at birth and endear themselves to many people with their bright white spots. Fawns will stay close to their moms for the first week. As soon as they are strong enough to follow, they will venture out to join the main group. Fawns are weaned when they are 70 days old and will be nibbling anything green growing in your gardens! The typical lifespan for mule deer is around 9-11 years. Please remember to watch for mule deer, especially with fawns, and drive with awareness!