Cottonwood Heights residents rattled by snake sightings

Published: Wednesday, July 31 2013 6:40 p.m. MDT

Residents have reported several encounters with rattlesnakes over the past several weeks, and experts say this summer’s dry conditions in the mountains may be partly to blame.

Deseret morning news

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Residents have reported several encounters with rattlesnakes over the past several weeks, and experts say this summer’s dry conditions in the mountains may be partly to blame.

Police responded to the latest sighting Tuesday night — two rattlers in a backyard near a house in the area of 8200 South and 3700 East. One snake slithered away. An officer captured the other.

“We took it, I guess, into custody and then safely transported it up into the foothills, where we released it back there,” Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Gary Young said Wednesday.

On Sunday, Dave Lyman, a neighbor to the property where the latest snake drama unfolded, said he, too, came too close to a rattler.

“We were walking in the back door, and it rattled at me,” Lyman said.

It's believed the rattlers are slithering into neighborhoods more frequently this year because of dry conditions in the mountains.

“It’s probably because it’s pretty dry up there. Maybe the food issues aren’t as good in the foothills and they won’t stay up there, so now they’re trying to work their way down where they can find food, and it’s in our neighborhoods,” said Larry McGill, veterinary pathologist at ARUP Blood Services. “They have to have a little bit of water, too.”

Lyman said he's concerned for the safety of children and pets in area.

“So what you worry about is that they’ll not be scared of them,” he said.

McGill said his recent conversations with local veterinarians suggested rattlesnake attacks on pets were up significantly this year. He said there is a vaccine for dogs, which is not currently the case for people. He encouraged residents who live in bench locations to pursue those vaccinations.

Still, McGill said the vaccine only buys time for the animals, which still need full medical attention after a bite.

Humans also require urgent care after rattler bites so that the venom and bacteria from the snake’s mouth does not cause affected tissue to necrotize.

“All of the things they used to tell about tourniquets and, if you remember the cowboy shows of cutting and sucking out the venom, we’ve learned those don’t work,” McGill said.

Experts caution people working in their yards to be careful around large rocks and rock walls, to watch when reaching, and to not accidentally sneak up on the snakes.

“Rattle some bushes and make some noise a little bit to make sure that if there is a snake there, they know you’re there,” McGill said.

Young advised homeowners to contact police when they spot rattlesnakes.

If animal control isn’t able to respond, police officers have some training on how to capture the snakes.

“We have a pole that has a loop,” Young described. “You can use it for dogs and cats, and you can also use it for snakes.”

Young said he had responded to a rattlesnake call once, where two rattlers were in a garage.

“I’m always nervous,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of snakes at all.”

Email: aadams@deseretnews.com

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