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Rattlesnakes in the Black Hills - Be Aware!

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The weather is finally getting warm as we approach the summer solstice. Birds are busy making nests, deer are shedding velvet from their antlers, and snakes are sunning on rocks and trails - including rattlesnakes. Which raises the question: what should I do if I come across rattlesnakes in the Black Hills?

snake encounter Western South Dakotan rattlesnakes are known as "Prairie Rattlesnakes," or Crotalus viridis. During the month of June, these creatures are venturing out in search of food, water, mates, and temporary shelter, thus increasing your chance of a rattlesnake encounter.

Prairie Rattlesnakes live in all areas of Western South Dakota. You will find these creatures in grassy fields and wooded mountains. But this doesn't mean that you should hide in your house when the weather is nice and the hiking trails are calling. You can protect yourself from the threat of rattlesnakes in the Black Hills with these helpful snake safety tips:

Know what to look for

The Prairie Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake found in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Any other snake you may encounter is harmless to humans. Therefore, a fundamental key to snake safety while out exploring the Black Hills is identification.

The Prairie Rattlesnake is best identified by the rattling sound it creates when it shakes its "rattle", which is actually made form modified scales. While out hiking, keep your ears alert for a rattling sound, which sounds similar to a hiss. Keep your eyes peeled for the brown and tan coloring, thicker body, and flat, triangular head. It's best to identify by sound first, before your rattlesnake encounter brings you close enough for visual identification.

Don't go alone

If you're alone out there on the trail, make sure you have a cell phone with you in case of emergencies. However, if you're bitten in an area of the Hills with limited cell phone service, the buddy system might be your only saving grace. This is the number one key to snake safety.

Keep moving

Rattlesnakes are not aggressive creatures. If you end up crossing one while trekking around in the great outdoors, it is best to just leave him alone. Do not panic, and do not try to injure or kill the snake. This will only put the snake on the defense and could end badly for you and the snake.

You have been bitten

Stay calm. The faster your heart rate, the quicker the venom will move through your bloodstream. Take long slow breaths. Walk slowly towards help, don't run, and try to call for assistance if you're alone and your cell phone gets reception. The key is to get to an emergency room as quickly as possible without quickening your pulse.

The most obvious snake safety tip you can observe in order to avoid an unfortunate rattlesnake encounter is to remain constantly aware that they are out there sunning their cold-blooded bodies in the summer heat, minding their own business. The best defense is a good offense. Know what to look for, be aware of your surroundings, and steer clear of danger.

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