Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jumping the snake

So tonight Taita, Keira and I headed up to Anderson lake park to go for a quick after dinner hike. It's one of our favorite "quickie" hikes, as it's got a nice 15 minute walk down to the reservoir where Taita can get some swimming in. As I was unloading Keira from the car and getting her tucked into the backpack, a convertible pulled up with a woman with two very excited dogs. The dogs immediately jumped out of the car, and ran past us headed for the park. I was busy futzing with the backpack trying to put the sun shade on it, and Taita was locked up in the car, so I didn't give them a second thought. The lady chased after them yelling at them to get back here this instant, when all of a sudden I heard her scream. I quickly stood up and looked around the car just in time to see one of the dogs get struck by a snake that was lying in the middle of the trail. I don't even think the dog had noticed the snake, and if the lady hadn't screamed it probably would have ran right by, but unfortunately "Jackson" had frozen at the sound of the scream, and ended up standing right on top of the snake.

Jackson came back to his owner immediately and hadn't yelped or anything, so I don't really think he got bitten. I think the snake made a mock attack to try and scare him away. The lady appeared to be a little confused and not sure what to do, so I told her to get Jackson down to the vet immediately to get him checked out, and to tell the vet that she thought Jackson may have been bitten by a medium sized Western Rattlesnake. She asked how I knew it was a rattler, so I stepped towards it and settled any doubts she may have had. (click here).

While she was loading her other dog in the car, I quickly examined Jackson and didn't see any bite marks. He also didn't seem too upset to have me rubbing up and down his legs, and since I understand that rattlesnake bites usually have a burning sensation, he should have gotten at least slightly upset about me checking him out. The lady was understandably upset, but I think I calmed her down a bit when I told her I couldn't see anything, and that even if he did get bitten, that snakes only use venom about 50% of the time. It's actually between 50-75% of the time for rattlesnakes, but I was trying to make her feel better while at the same time still keeping her scared enough to go to the vet immediately for Jackson's sake.

She finished loading the dogs and sped off down the road, I went back to the trail and watched the snake for a minute or two. He was about 60-70 cm long, and was quite happy to shake his rattle at me while I watched him. I found a stick just off the trail, and used it to convince him to disappear into the grass. After making sure he was going to keep going I went back and grabbed Keira and Taita and we headed off on our hike which was pretty uneventful after that, although I must admit I was a bit more careful about where I stepped, and kept Taita's leash a little tighter than usual :)

Click here to download a Google Earth link to where it happened.

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