The Western Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake in the Rocky Mountains. There are many other snakes that live in the area, but this is the most dangerous.
I remember the first time that I encountered a rattlesnake in the Rocky Mountains. It was a moment I won’t forget and luckily for me it was a safe encounter. At the time I didn’t know much about rattlesnakes and didn’t realize that the rattlesnakes in the area are not aggressive. Here are some important facts and information about these creatures.
About Western Rattlesnake
These snakes can grow to about 4 feet in length. The head is triangular shaped and larger than the body. The coloring is grayish with faded brownish blotches down the body towards the tail where they look more like bands. The tip of the tail has the telltale rattles that it shakes in defense as a warning.
Rattlesnakes grow throughout their life and shed their skin at least once a year. The process of losing their skin is called molting.
Where Do They Live?
They live in all areas of the Rocky Mountains, generally up to and below 8,000 feet in elevation. Most commonly they can be found in grasslands, sagebrush, rocky woods, or canyonsides. Since they are ectotherms, which means they control their body heat by their surrounding environment, they can be found in sunny areas during cooler parts of the day and shady spots in the hotter times.
They live in underground dens during the cold winters in order to stay warm. The dens are often located in sunny, south facing slopes. Many rattlesnakes den together, with some dens studied by researchers containing up to 266 individual snakes.
How Dangerous Or Venomous Are They?
Bites are dangerous, but rarely are they fatal to people. One of the reasons for this is that most hospitals now know how to treat bites and can help people. On average there are 7,000 – 8,000 bites by venomous snakes a year in the entire USA, with only 7-12 deaths.
How serious a bite is depends on how much venom was injected by the snake and also how soon you can get medical treatment.
What Should I Do If I See A Rattlesnake?
If you see a rattlesnake stay away from it. The first thing you should do is to freeze and let it back away then you should move away. If you are with young children, you should pick them up or hold them so they will be still. Move dogs away from the snake also so as not to aggravate the snake.
Remember, it just wants to be left alone. As long as you give it a way to leave and give it room you should be safe.