High number of rattlesnake bites reported in cottage country this summer

Massasauga rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes have bitten eight people in the Georgian Bay area this summer, and experts are worried that there is potential for even more incidents as cottagers head out on vacation this August.

Warm weather, an abundance of rocks to hide under, and long grasses make the region west of Algonquin Park a prime environment for the mating massasauga rattlesnakes, wildlife expert Glenda Clayton told CTV News Barrie.

“They will be on the move because it’s going to be 20 degrees C, a perfect night to be a snake,” Clayton said. “They’re out looking for a mate or looking for food because mice will be active in the evening hours as well.”

Of the eight people bitten so far this summer, seven had to be treated with anti-venom serum in the hospital. While there have been no rattlesnake-related deaths in Ontario in more than 40 years, rattlesnake venom has serious effects, and it is essential that bite victims seek immediate medical treatment.

“[A rattlesnake bite] is going to make you very ill, and that illness is going to have serious lasting effects if you don’t get treatment,” Jim Hanna, of the West Parry Sound Health Centre, told the Parry Sound North Star. The West Parry Sound Health Centre manages the anti-venom supplies for Ontario hospitals, sending it to the hospitals where the need is anticipated. So far this year, Hanna notes, all of the people bitten were in the Georgian Bay area.

In fact, most of the 32,000 rattlesnakes that reside in Ontario can be found on the Bruce Peninsula or around the eastern edge of Georgian Bay, where they are a protected species.

Massasauga rattlesnakes are usually less than a meter long, and can be difficult to spot because they come out at night. The best way to avoid being bitten, says Clayton, is to wear shoes instead of sandals at night, carry a flashlight, and ensure paths around your property are clear so that you can see if a snake is in the area.