The snaked truth
Most people who frequent eastern WA have heard that rattlesnakes are common in the area. They've also likely heard or believe that a rattler is extremely dangerous, unpredictable and extremely fearsome. We believed that too, and in nearly twenty years had never seen one in the region until August of 2017, when we witnessed two rattlesnake encounters within a couple weeks. One was on a beach a couple miles down-river from CB, and the other was floating on some milfoil in the marina right by the boat launch. In both cases the snakes were quickly killed, over concerns for nearby humans.
As we thought about local knowledge we wanted to outfit CB patrons with, we decided to learn about the area's rattlesnakes and share it with you. Admittedly, we're just embarking on that, but we're in contact with some awesome snake experts in the biology department at Central Washington University. They've been studying snakes in the CB area for years, and are a foremost authority.
Not as dangerous as their reputation
Rattlesnakes encountered by humans are often killed out of fear. The snake in the photo above was encountered in August, 2017 by a woman reaching for a piece of driftwood on a beach just two miles down-river on the western shore. She was probably within inches of it's hiding spot, and once startled, it's rattle could be heard several yards away. Beachgoers were understandably unnerved, and the snake was killed, assuming someone could be bitten later if the snake were shooed off, only to return another day.
The reality is that rattlers are non-confrontational and won't seek to strike. They shake their rattles to warn intruders, and will typically slither away if confronted. Because of this, rattlesnake bites to humans are very infrequent. When they do strike at humans it's usually because they are harassed, handled or stepped on, and at best they can only strike within a distance of two-thirds their body length. This means a three foot snake (large for this area) can only strike two within two feet. They can't jump several feet to strike, and they won't chase you down to strike you. When bites do happen, it rarely leads to death, as the snakes don't always inject venom for a non-predatory strike. It's a precious resource to them and they use it sparingly.
PNW RATTLERS ARE THE NICEST IN THE USA
Fortunately for us, our local species, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus Oreganus) is notoriously the most docile rattlesnake in the entire United States. Who knew?
When They're Active
In most of the Columbia basin, rattlesnakes are active from April through late September, depending on temperature. In the early and later phases of their active season, they're active during the day, but switch to night-time activity during the hottest months. They typically shelter under shrubs and rocks when inactive.
Please Note: This page is still being worked on. More info specific to human and pet interactions with snakes, and what to watch for in CB are yet to come (hopefully by Memorial Day).