Third rattlesnake bite this year

Wichita Mountains_A 36 year old woman was bitten by a rattlesnake in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge over the weekend.  Refuge officers say this is the third snake bite they've encountered this year.  In the past, they've had as many as two, but this year it's a little higher and snake season isn't over just yet.

The woman is still in the hospital but is doing much better.  According to Refuge Officers she apparently stepped really close to a snake but didn't see it or hear it.  She did, however, know that something hit her on the foot.

The Wildlife Refuge always looks so calm and picturesque, but, lurking behind the rocks or hiding in the tall grass, this fatal predator could be waiting to strike.  The first case happened in May.  "The individual was climbing up kind of a rock face and as he reached his hand up to the ledge above him he got struck on the fingers," says Deputy Refuge Manager Ralph Bryant.  And, the second happened in September.  "Apparently a snake was underneath a rock or next to a rock that he stepped beside and the snake struck him on the foot," said Bryant.

Bryant says that rattlers aren't usually that aggressive.  "But you know, if you step right beside one then they'll get you," he says.  Bryant says he's seen rattlesnakes that have grown to six feet long, but that's not the only size of a rattler.

The question is:  What can we do to protect ourselves from these venomous creatures?  "Kind of watch the ground watch where you're gonna be stepping and usually a snake will move a little bit if you're getting real close to it," says Bryant.

There is some good news, though.  The refuge gets over 1.5 million visitors every year - so three bites really isn't that many.  "Your chance of encountering snakes on the refuge is really slim," he says.

If you do get bit by a snake, Bryant says the worst thing you can do is get anxious or excited.  You should stay relaxed and get to a hospital in no more than an hour.  More good news - as we approach winter, snakes are starting to find their dens, so your chances of snake bites are even slimmer.