With the recent onset of warm weather, residents are reminded to be aware that they may encounter prairie rattlesnakes when exploring coulees or occasionally in urban areas within Lethbridge.
The majority of rattlesnake sightings occur in southwest Lethbridge, but they are occasionally seen in coulee areas on the east side of the Oldman River, as well. Rattlesnakes spend much of their time on dry coulee slopes but will also make their way to cottonwood forests and wetlands.
How to avoid rattlesnake encounters
Rattlesnakes are shy creatures and will typically try to avoid people, if they can. Following are some tips to help avoid encountering rattlesnakes while enjoying Lethbridge's natural areas:
- If you are hiking in the coulees, always wear pants and sturdy footwear.
- Always pay attention to the ground in front of you. Be snake aware.
- Always keep your dog on a leash. A rattlesnake will likely defend itself by striking a dog that ignores its warning signs.
What to do if you encounter a rattlesnake
- remain calm
- back away slowly
- give the snake space
Your first indication of a nearby rattlesnake will likely be the rasp of its rattle. This is the snake's way of getting your attention to warn you of its presence. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and prefer to retreat rather than strike, given the choice. Never run if you encounter a rattlesnake, as there may be more than one in the immediate area.
Rattlesnake mitigation in Lethbridge
The City of Lethbridge operates a rattlesnake mitigation program to reduce the number of people/pet and snake encounters within the city. Each year between April and October, when rattlesnakes are out of hibernation, we contract a rattlesnake consultant to relocate rattlesnakes from 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 provincial Fish & Wildlife, and the City of Lethbridge has a research permit to conduct these activities.
The Alberta Wildlife Act prohibits anyone from owning or 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.
Who to call if you have a rattlesnake encounter
To have a rattlesnake relocated from an urban area, please call 403-332-6806. To report a rattlesnake sighting, please contact the Helen Schuler Nature Centre at 403-320-3064.
For additional information, visit: www.lethbridge.ca/rattlesnakes
Dave Henley, Senior Bylaw Enforcement Officer