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Playing with a rattlesnake becomes expensive no-no
It's the Pits by Lee Pitts

Despite having lived in or near rattlesnake country my entire life, I’ve never known anyone who actually got bit by one, let alone was bitten and lived to tell the tale. Until now, that is.
We’ve lived in our house for more than 30 years and never saw a rattlesnake on our place up until two years ago. Since then I’ve killed six on our place. One was under a trash can, two were in our driveway, two were in my wife’s flower garden and I ran over one in front of our house (although I don’t think I get a notch in my shovel for that one).

Our neighborhood has become a Rattlesnake Social Club and whenever two neighbors meet, the discussion always turns to snake sightings. We think the influx of rattlers is because three years ago, the California Conservation Corps came in and made a fire break between us and the 8,000-acre state park next door.

It was much appreciated at the time, but it drove all the moles, gophers and rats onto our property, which the rattlesnakes eat like candy. Now many of us hate the fire break, thinking we’d rather take our chances in a fire rather than die an ugly death caused by a venomous rattlesnake.

Count my neighbor as one of the fire break haters; that’s because he’s the one who was bitten by the rattlesnake. One day last month his dog had a snake in her mouth and was shaking it violently, which is how dogs kill snakes. Unfortunately, myvneighbor didn’t see the diamonds on thevsnake’s hide and he reached down to separatevit from his dog.

El biggo mistake-o. Do not pet the snake.vI repeat: DO NOT PET THE SNAKE.vI’m glad to report both victims lived. Myvtheory is the snake injected all its venomvinto the dog so there wasn’t any left for myvneighbor.

The vet thinks both bites were “dry,”vas a quarter of all rattlesnake bitesvare. That means there was littlevvenom injected. You can’t tellvthat to my neighbor, or hisvdog, because they both sufferedvthrough three of the worst days ofvtheir lives.

You’d think my buddy and his mutt married into the Kardashian clan or something, with all the publicity they are getting. My neighbor is now a celebrity and he has started selling his autograph followed by two fang marks – all written with the snake-bitten hand.

I was talking to a large-animal vet shortly after the newsworthy incident and he told me he gets about five dogs a year that are bitten by a rattler, and about half of them live. He says the deciding factor on whether they live or die is the location of the bite. A paw is definitely better than the nose.

And, he’s heard all the rumors about rattlesnakes, including: September venom is the worst. A rattler will never bite a pregnant woman. The best way to treat a bite is to extract the gall from one and place it over the bite. If you place a hair rope in a circle around your bedroll before you go to sleep, you will never be rudely awakened by a rattler. When a rattlesnake takes a drink of water, it takes out its poison sac and if it is carried away or lost, the rattler will commit suicide. Probably by biting its own lip. (Just kidding.)

Hogs are the only domestic animal that rattlesnakes can’t hurt. To a Duroc, a rattlesnake is like eating a Milky Way candy bar. Hogs will eat all rattlers that invade their territory. (My neighbor is considering becoming a hog farmer.)

The best place to get bitten (if there is one) is in the knee because snake’s venom can’t penetrate the knee cap.

After a dog is bitten, such is its intense hatred for snakes that it will dedicate its life to their worldwide extermination.

The vet also told me anti-venom treatments for humans can easily cost more than $30,000. Being a cheapskate, I’d have to carefully weigh my options. My neighbor didn’t have anti-venom shots and he didn’t die. (He just felt like it.)

And one-fourth of all rattlesnake bites are dry. Let’s see ... three days of violent purging, or spend $30,000? I’m a tough guy – I think I’d take my chances.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.