Humans, dogs should heed rattlers
Humans are not the only ones out enjoying the warmer weather.
Rattlesnakes also are becoming more active, and health officials said they present a very serious threat to people and their pets.
But area veterinarians point out that rattlers are not the biggest danger now that spring has sprung.
"Parvo is going to kill more dogs than rattlesnakes," said Sigrid Wrolie, who works at the Williams Animal Clinic.
It is a common disease in Colusa County, and especially in the springtime when there are more puppies.
And dog deaths are entirely unnecessary because there is a preventive inoculation.
That same is true for rabies, which is commonly transmitted in the Colusa County area by bats.
Another threat, although fairly rare, is Leptospirosis, a severe bacterial infection found in freshwater that has been contaminated by animal urine.
While more common in climates such as Hawaii's, Colusa County, with its various waterways and rice fields — and a corresponding rat and mice population — has recorded cases.
Dogs can be exposed to the disease — and humans as well.
As for rattlesnakes, few people realize there is a vaccination for dogs, but is typically used on animals at a higher risk.
Moreover, it is not a cure-all, and if a dog gets bit, the animal needs to be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
However, the treatment can be far less severe and costly.
Without it, anti-venom is required, and that can run from $1,500 to as much as $3,000, depending on the clinic, officials reported.
The vaccine typically costs less than $40, and especially recommended for dogs that are commonly in snake country, such as those on farms and ranches.
But rattlesnakes can also be found in urban settings, such as in a garden, a garage, in a park, or in a stack of wood, just to name a few of the places they are known to hide or slither.
A Tehama County rancher learned that lesson in December when he found more than 50 rattlers in a debris pile he was cleaning up.
Some veterinary clinics are already reporting cases of snake bites.
The California Poison Control Center reports rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the United States, with one or two deaths resulting from those bites.
The potential of running into a rattlesnake should not stop people from venturing outdoors, the Department of Fish & Game says, but there are precautions that can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten.
But people cannot count on just hearing the snake.
Snakes don't always give themselves away with that ominous noise, so it important to be able to identify it by sight.
Fish and Game defines the rattlesnake as heavy-bodied, with a blunt-tail including one or more rattles. It has a triangular-shaped head, much broader at the back than at the front, a distinct "neck" region, hooded eyes with elliptical pupils, and a heat-sensing pit between its eyes and nostrils.
Northern Pacific rattlesnakes have a series of dark blotches surrounded by a lighter-colored halo running down their backs. Towards the tail, the blotches occasionally become bands that circle the body.
When a rattlesnake strikes, it is usually an act of defense when it feels cornered because it cannot escape.
Fish and Game recommends people wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants when walking in rural areas or hiking, carry a cellphone and stick to well-used trails.
And never hike alone. Help may be needed.
Poison Control advises to never apply a tourniquet, pack the bite area in ice, cut the wound, suck out the venom, or let the victim drink alcohol.
For more first aid information, please visit California Poison Control at www.calpoison.com.ï¿½