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There are 17 species of snakes in Ontario. Of these, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake is the only venomous snake. However, others may easily be mistaken for one because of their similar markings. A venomous snake may inject venom or poison into a person or animal with its fangs. This rattlesnake is shy and will usually move away from people. The colour of the snake helps it hide without being noticed. The rattle should warn anyone from coming too close, but often the rattle is missing.
Be prepared when hiking or visiting an area where rattlesnakes live. Have an emergency plan. Know how to contact the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the area and know how to get to the closest hospital.
Tips to Avoid Snake Bites
- Wear hiking boots and long pants when walking in long grass or rocky areas, especially in places where the Massasauga Rattlesnake is known to live.
- Watch where you are walking. Do not reach into areas that you cannot see.
- Be very careful when hiking at night and use a flashlight.
- If you hear a rattle, stop and listen. Slowly move away from the sound of the snake. Do not try to touch it. The snake will try to move away from you!
- Remember it is against the law to catch, move or harm these snakes.
First Aid for Snake Bites
If bitten by an unknown or non-venomous snake, you should:
- Remain calm. Even if it was a venomous snake, there is a chance that no venom or poison has even been injected into the bite.
- Call 911. Rest and wait for instructions. Remain calm and move as little as possible. This will slow the spread of venom.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water if possible.
- Remove any jewelry or anything tight from the bitten limb.
- Immobilize the limb.
- Call the Ontario Poison Centre right away!
- Check your immunization status and obtain a tetanus shot if needed.
- If you think you or someone you know has been bitten by an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, go to hospital by ambulance.
What you should NOT do:
- Do not apply a tourniquet or anything tight.
- Do not apply ice.
- Do not cut or suck on the bite area.
- Do not try to catch or kill the snake.
- Do not take any pain medicine containing aspirin or ibuprofen.