Snakes on base
By 460th Space Wing Safety Office
/ Published May 23, 2016
BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Recently a child was bitten by a snake in base housing here on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Though snake bites on base are not a common event, they do happen occasionally and we have had several over the last few years, with two of them involving children. Fortunately, those bitten have received medical care in a timely manner and there have been no fatalities.
Colorado has over 25 known snake species, but only two of them are venomous, the prairie and the massasauga rattlesnake. It is believed that the most recent snake bite in base housing was by a massasauga. According to Staff Sgt. Anthony Santiago, 460th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management NCO in charge, the most common types of snakes found in the area are the non-venomous black necked garter snake and bullsnake, and the venomous prairie rattlesnake.
Santiago stated that snakes have been found in all areas of the base to include in and around facilities and equipment, with the largest concentration in the northeast part of the base between E. Steamboat Avenue and the 6th Avenue perimeter fence.
There are several things you can do to reduce the chances of a snake encounter, decrease the possibility of a snake bite and surviving one if you are bitten. First and foremost, it is important to know how to identify venomous snakes from non-venomous ones.
Identification: Since there are only two known species of venomous snakes in Colorado, understanding their characteristics are key. All species of rattlesnake have several distinct characteristics in common:
· Large, triangular head
· Heat-sensing pit on snout
· Vertical pupils
· Thick, heavy body
· Distinctive rattle or a blunt tipped tail
Perhaps the easiest characteristics for most of us to identify on a rattlesnake are the thick body and the blunt tale. An adult rattlesnake usually has a rattle at the end of its tail, but in some cases the rattle is lost in which case the snake's tail will still be blunt.
In most cases the rattlesnake will alert you to its presence by vibrating its tail to make the rattling sound, but not always. They have been known to strike without rattling. If the snake has a sharply pointed tail, it is likely not a rattlesnake. It can be difficult to identify these characteristics in baby rattlesnakes.
Use extreme caution around any type of snake and do not handle or play with them, even if you think they are non-venomous. If you see a snake, especially a rattlesnake, near your workplace or base housing, please contact the proper authorities to have the snake removed. In base housing contact the housing office at 888-464-8586 or maintenance at 303-340-0066. For all other areas of the base contact 460th CES customer service at 720-847-9913.
Deterrence: Ultimately, we want to do everything we can to deter snakes from slithering into areas populated by humans. To reduce a snake encounter, consider the follow tips:
· Keep grass cut short: Snakes lay in high grass, bushes and flower beds where they are often concealed from your view and looking for prey. They will also take refuge in prairie dog holes.
· Never leave food or water sitting out: Leaving food and water sitting outside will attract small animals, which attract snakes.
· Do not provide shelter or hiding places for snakes: Keep your patio and yard as free from debris and materials as possible. This eliminates hiding places for rodents and the snakes that eat them.
· Look before you reach: If you are moving or lifting something that has been on the ground for a while, use a stick or tool to lift and look under to check for snakes before lifting. Before reaching into any shrubs or garden areas check them for snakes.
· Check your yard: During late spring, summer and early fall, snakes are active and move about regularly, looking for food and mates. Check your yard and patio areas regularly, especially when children will be playing in the area. If you see a snake, do not approach and back away and call the personnel listed above for removal.
First Aid: Even if you follow all the precautions noted, the possibility still exists that you or a loved one may suffer a snake bite. Do not panic. The overwhelming majority of snake bites in this country are not fatal if the victim receives medical care in a timely manner. Follow these steps to help improve your chances:
· Move away from the snake to prevent further bites.
· Call 911 or get the victim to medical care immediately.
· Try to get a picture of the snake, or at least a good look, to help medical personnel identify the type of snake.
· Remove any jewelry or constricting items from the bite area in case it starts to swell.
· Keep the victim still and calm because a rise in heart rate and movement can increase the rate at which the venom spreads throughout the body.
· If possible, keep the bite area below heart level.
The most important step in treating a venomous snake bite is to quickly receive medical care. If you are unsure what bit you and you think it may have been a snake, do not delay, get medical attention immediately. For questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact the 460th Space Wing Safety office at 720-847-7233.