Calgary

When it comes to snake safety, look but don't touch

Naturalist Ken Moore dispenses some helpful hints about what to do if you should come across a rattler on a hike in the coulees around west Lethbridge, Alta.

Rattlers might look like scary villains, but they're actually more scared of us

Rattlesnakes, like this dead one that was dropped off at the Ministry of Environment office in Kamloops in May, may look terrifying, but are actually more afraid of people than we are of them, says a Lethbridge naturalist. (Alan Hobler)

Ken Moore wants you to know one thing about rattlesnakes: chances are, the snake is more terrified of you than you of it.

That was the gist of the message driven home by Moore Saturday at a lecture he gave at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge, Alta.

"A lot of people think a rattlesnake is just waiting for them to walk by and is going to jump out and  bite them," said Moore, a naturalist who specializes in snakes, in a Saturday interview with CBC's Terri Trembath. "Not true."

"If a rattlesnake knows you're there, it's going to do everything it can to move away from you," he added.

Moore spoke Saturday in front of a crowd of around 30, who came to hear about strategies for dealing with unexpected confrontations with rattlers on hikes through the coulees around west Lethbridge.

"Rattlesnakes are very non-aggressive. They're very shy," he said. "They will do everything they can to escape from a person.They will take every opportunity they can to leave you if they know you're around."

What people need to employ the most if they should find themselves face to face with a rattler is common sense, Moore said.

"We want people to respect rattlesnakes. We don't want them to fear them," he said.

"A person isn't going to stand in front of a loaded gun that I know of — and you aren't going to stand in front of a rattlesnake if it's only a couple feet in front of you.

"We want you to respect that a rattlesnake could cause you some damage if  you were to do something really foolish, like trying to touch it."

A rattlesnake tastes the air on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Reserve on March 27, 2006, near Ajo, Arizona. (David McNew/Getty Images)

For Tabitha Davey, who recently relocated from Medicine Hat to Lethbridge, the lecture was helpful in trying to teach her 11-year-old daughter Vaetta what to do in the event they come across a rattler.

"We're on south side, so we're really close to trails and parks … my daughter is 11 and we have a little schnauzer, so it was important to be here today," Davey said.

"Getting to know the trails, and the coulees, it's really important to know your surroundings and how to manage anything that comes up," she added.

Tabitha Davey, who recently relocated to Lethbridge from Medicine Hat, attended the snake safety talk to help her 11-year-old daughter Vaetta overcome her fear of snakes (Terri Trembath)

After hearing Moore's presentation, David said she felt more reassured.

"The information did exactly what it was intended to  — especially for my daughter — because she came here saying, 'I'm really afraid of snakes,' and the presenter was really good, because the information basically says, the snake really is more afraid of you."

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca

With files from Terri Trembath

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