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Rattlesnake safety could save a life

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A bullsnake, or gopher snake, a non-venomous species which shares the habitats and habits of the Prairie Rattlesnake, one of two rattlesnake species native to Colorado. This particular snake was found under a car on Buckley Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A bullsnake, or gopher snake, a non-venomous species which shares the habitats and habits of the Prairie Rattlesnake, one of two rattlesnake species native to Colorado. This particular snake was found under a car on Buckley Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Several rattlesnakes have recently been spotted around base housing.

Colorado State Parks reported two types of rattlesnakes, the Western or Prairie Rattlesnake and the Massasauga, inhabit Colorado. Both snakes are considered non-aggressive, but bite when threatened.

A rattlesnake's first line of defense is camouflage. Unfortunately, this also leads to human-snake encounters when a snake hiding in tall grass or blending in with the ground remains unseen until close enough for the snake to feel threatened.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, snake encounters can be minimized by avoiding piles of rocks, wood or leaves, as well as tall grass, where a snake may be hiding, as well as checking under cars on hot days. Additionally, checking the area for snakes before letting children play may reduce the risk of a snake encounter.

If avoidance fails, a rattlesnake will usually warn a human or other threatening creature that they are too close with a distinctive sound: a dry, high-pitched buzzing from the snake's namesake rattle. Additionally, a threatened snake will often inflate its body to appear larger, forming an S-shaped coil, ready to strike.

If an encounter does result in a bite, call 911 immediately. NIOSH recommends trying to remember the color and shape of the snake, since treatment for a bite often depends on species. Keep the bite below the level of the heart and keep the victim calm to slow the venom. Do not wait for symptoms to appear - seek medical attention immediately!

If a rattlesnake is encountered on base, call the 460th Civil Engineer Squadron Entomology Office at 720-847-6396.
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