By Mike Linn
Don’t get rattled, but the snakes are out.
Just ask Elida resident Scott Beard, bitten by a rattlesnake this month while fixing a flat tire.
Or the youth group at Dora Baptist Church. They stumbled on one coiled and nervous on the church sidewalk a week ago.
Or ask pharmacist Doyle Potter, who said he’s treated about half of all the bites he treats annually in the past couple of months.
Curry County Agriculture Extension Agent Stan Jones said he stumbled on two rattlers near his barn last weekend. They ended up dead, Jones said.
Area residents have multiple theories about why the snakes seem so noticeable lately.
Dora Baptist Church Pastor Phill Shelton thinks temperature is a factor.
“When it’s real hot you won’t see them out; but when it’s cool like when we saw the one on our sidewalk (Sept. 10) … they’ll come out on the pavement because the pavement holds the heat,” Shelton said.
Jones said the snakes are mating, and noticeable in pairs rather than solo.
“I hate them, I’m terribly scared of them,” Jones said. “And I have children and I would hate to see one of them get seriously hurt because of a snake bite.”
Beard knows that feeling. June Beard, his mother, said her son spent a few days in the hospital after his snake encounter.
Potter, a pharmacist at Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis, said he treats anywhere from five to nine bites a year, but has treated four in the past two months.
He believes the snakes are getting ready for hibernation, trying to fatten up for the slumber.
Roosevelt County Agriculture Extension Agent Floyd McAlister said the snakes are always around, but agreed with Potter that this time of the year they’re trying to get ready for winter.
“They’re trying to gather them some last energy,” McAlister said. “They know that fall is coming on and they’re trying to get food in them and ready for winter.”
Tony Gennaro, a retired biology professor and self-proclaimed rattlesnake guru, said it’s too early for rattlesnakes to be settling down for the winter.
“The snakes are out foraging, they’re out for din din,” he said. “If they’re not hungry they’re going to sit in their bush, just like us.”
Gennaro said cooler temperatures help attract the snakes to black pavement, which radiates heat.
Rattlesnakes are frequently seen between the months of April and October, Gennaro said, and hunt at night for lizards and rodents. They do not chase humans, and are most poisonous when they haven’t eaten and have a full sack of venom, Gennaro said.
“When a rattlesnake has a full sack of venom and you get bit, you don’t have much time, maybe an hour,” Gennaro said.