The City of Lethbridge operates a rattlesnake mitigation program that is in place to reduce the number of people/pet and snake encounters in Lethbridge.
Each year between April and October, when rattlesnakes are out of hibernation, we contract Ryan Heavyhead, our rattlesnake consultant, to relocate rattlesnakes on public or private property where there is a concern for public safety.
The snakes are relocated from an area of conflict, back to their permanent natural habitat (their den site/wintering/birthing grounds) and away from people/pet conflict. This process is strictly regulated by Fish & Wildlife and the City of Lethbridge has a research permit to conduct these activities.
The Province of Alberta Wildlife Act prohibits anyone from owing/harassing wildlife, including rattlesnakes and bull snakes, so the City of Lethbridge provides this mitigation program to encourage residents to phone for help instead of trying to move rattlesnakes themselves.
It is also illegal to kill rattlesnakes, possess rattlesnakes or their parts, or damage denning areas. There are significant charges and fines for killing a rattlesnake in Alberta.
To have a rattlesnake relocated from an urban area, please call 403 332 6806
(Phone number is not in use during winter months while the snakes are hibernating).
To report rattlesnake sightings, please contact the Helen Schuler Nature Centre at 403 320 3064.
Residents may encounter prairie rattlensakes when exploring our coulees or occasionally in urban areas. The information that follows is intended to help people co-exist safely with these shy creatures.
Where Do They Live?
Prairie rattlesnakes are more common in southeastern Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan. Here in Lethbridge, they reach the northwestern limit of their range. The majority of rattlesnake sightings are in West Lethbridge although snakes have been observed in the coulee areas on the east side of the Oldman River. The most common areas for sightings are:
- Paradise Canyon and surrounding area
- Popson Park and Cottonwood Park Nature Reserve
- University of Lethbridge
- Bridge Drive
Rattlesnakes spend much of their time on dry coulee slopes but will wander into cottonwood forests and wetlands in search of food. The benchland, or top of coulees where housing subdivisions now sit, were once critical summer habitat for these snakes. Rattlesnakes also enjoy sunning themselves on paved paths, so it is not uncommon to see them on pathways in RiverStone and other west Lethbridge neighbourhoods.
How to Avoid Encountering a Rattlesnake
Rattlesnakes are masters of camouflage. Make sure you remain alert and aware of your surroundings when hiking in the coulees, especially when you are in the natural areas of west Lethbridge. We recommend staying on established trails.
Your first indication of a nearby rattlesnake may be the rasp of its rattle. This is the snake's way of getting your attention to warn you of its presence. That being said, rattlesnakes will not
always alert people of their presence. Their first strategy is to rely on their
camouflage. For this reason, residents need to maintain awareness while they're moving in and around
Do not step or jump over large rocks and logs without checking to see what is on the other side. Rattlesnakes can feel the vibration of your footsteps through the ground.
- Keep your dog on a leash. A snake will likely defend itself by striking a dog that ignores the warning signs.
- If you are hiking in the coulees, always wear pants and sturdy footwear.
- Always pay attention to the ground in front of your feet. Be snake aware.
If You Encounter a Rattlesnake…
Back away slowly. Remain calm. Give the snake space.
Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and given a choice will retreat rather than strike. However, if surprised, stepped on or cornered, they can strike up to a distance about half of their length. People should never
run when encountering a snake as there may be more than one in the immediate
It is estimated that up to 20% of their bites are dry (no venom is injected). Prairie rattlesnake venom is not particularly lethal and no one has died from a prairie rattlesnake bite in Alberta. Almost every year dogs are bitten by rattlesnakes in Lethbridge. They usually recover after several days of treatment with steroids and antibiotics.
What to Do If Bitten By a Rattlesnake…
Remain calm and get to the hospital as soon as possible. Do not try to suck or cut the venom out – it is very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Early treatment of rattlesnake bites will normally result in a complete recovery. Contact a veterinarian as soon as possible if your pet has been bitten.
Snake Barrier Fencing
Residents may encounter snakes in their yards. For some this may be a great learning experience, and for others it may be a most unpleasant and dreaded encounter. Some residents may want to snake-proof their entire yard, or perhaps only a vegetable garden or an area where children play. Any of these options can be accomplished with snake barrier fencing.
Click here for more information about snake barrier fencing from the South Okanagan-Similkameen Stewardship Program.
Who to Call?
If you require further information about rattlesnakes:
Helen Schuler Nature Centre: 403 320 3064
Alberta Fish and Wildlife: 403 381 5266
To have a rattlesnake relocated from an urban or recreational area, please call 403 332 6806 (Phone number is not in use during winter months while the snakes are hibernatings).