Rattlesnakes, also known as “pit vipers,” come from the family of Viperidae, which means “Old World Vipers.” Squamata is their order, which means “body covered with large horny scales.” Rattlesnakes are called pit vipers because of the heat-sensing pits on the sides of their heads. These help rattlesnakes find prey, which include rodents, birds, amphibians, other snakes and lizards.
When a rattlesnake bites its victim, the venom quickly kills its food and then starts melting the bones, skin and fur. This allows the snake to digest its prey. When it is full, it will find a warm, safe location away from predators, usually under rocks, holes or fallen trees to finish digesting its meal.
Many people are bitten by rattlesnakes each year and only five out of 8,000 die. As a fact, about half of those people bitten saw the snake and didn’t make an effort to get out of its path. These snakes do not want to be pestered, but if they are bothered or feel threatened, they will attack whether it’s an animal or human.
If bitten, here are some emergency tips: Get away from the snake and do not try to catch it or kill it. It won’t help. If you have a cell phone, call 911 immediately. A rattlesnake bite must be treated as soon as possible. If you are more than 30 minutes away from a doctor, treat it yourself on the way.
If it’s necessary to treat the bite, wash with soap and water if available. Keep the bitten area below heart level, stay calm and do not put any ice on it.
Addie T. Lindsay is 15 years old. She is a writer and accomplished photographer of wildlife creatures, big and small. Her Sioux Indian name is Hissing Viper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.