Two people were bitten by rattlesnakes in 12 days in Stillwater County, prompting advanced life support (ALS) transports from the Stillwater Billings Clinic by ambulance and a reminder to keep watch for the venomous reptiles.
The first strike occurred the morning of July 24, just north of Reed Point, when a 42-year-old man was bitten.
The call came into the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Dispatch center at 8:50 a.m., by a co-worker who said the bite had taken place approximately 15 minutes earlier.
The co-worker said he was en route with the victim in a 1-ton white work pickup truck and requested an ambulance to meet them.
Columbus Fire Rescue responded and found the truck in the eastbound lane of I-90, at mile marker 398, and transported the man to the Stillwater Billings Clinic, then later to a Billings Hospital.
The second rattlesnake bite came on Aug. 4 at 10:10 p.m. involving a 5-year-old boy. No details were available about where the child was when bitten, but he was taken to the Stillwater Billings Clinic and then a Billings hospital via ALS.
The Stillwater Billings Clinic stocks vials of Crofab in order to “start therapy” when needed, said Dr. Richard Klee. CroFab is very expensive and used to treat all United States pit viper venoms, including rattlesnakes.
“One never knows how much Crofab a patient will need, sometimes as many as 15 or 20 vials in the case of a severe envenomation,” said Klee.
Once a rattlesnake bite victim is given CroFab, he or she is transferred to Billings for further evaluation and treatment, if needed.
LAND OF SNAKES
Rattlesnakes are cold-blooded, heat-seeking reptiles most often found in warm, dry habit, as well as along rivers, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Paul Luepke.
“Anywhere there’s rodents, you’ll find rattlesnakes,” said Luepke, adding that he has seen the snakes all across Stillwater County.
In fact, last summer, his dog was almost bit by a large rattler near a fishing access along the Stillwater River.
Luepke noted that bird hunters should take special caution for themselves and their dogs, as they cover a large area of rattlesnake territory.
According to the FWP website, all rattlesnakes have a heat-sensing pit located between the nostril and the eye. The fangs are hollow and hinged, allowing them to be folded back against the roof of the mouth. The tail ends in a rattle that helps warn potential predators of the snake’s presence.
The reptile’s distinguishing attribute is the rattles at the end of its tail.
Adults range in size from 15 to 60 inches. Their heads are triangular shaped with a blunt nose, narrow neck and thick body, according to FWP.
Their coloring varies from pale green to brown; a series of brown or black blotches edged with a dark and then a light line extends the length of the body. The blotches often merge into rings on the tail.
WHAT TO DO IF BIT
According to nearly every educational and official website on rattlesnake bites, the first thing to do if bitten by a rattler is to move out of range of the snake as it can strike again if it feels threatened. The next step is to get medical help as quickly as possibly as rattlesnake bites can be deadly.
Between those two are a number of things to keep in mind.
•Be aware of not elevating the bite area above your heart, as that will make the venom travel more quickly.
•Because adrenaline also speeds venom through the body, stay as calm as possible and move as little as possible.
•Remove all jewelry and clothing near the bite as swelling could cause those items to compromise circulation.
•Do not try and cut the bite area or suck out the venom.
•Do not apply a tourniquet above the bite area.
•Do not apply anything to the bite area.