Wild rattlesnake receives ingenious treatment from veterinarian for facial infection
Massasauga rattlesnakes are the only venomous snake that can be found in Ontario. They also live in some of the United States and a few other places in Canada. They can grow to almost two feet in length and they are crucial for keeping rodent populations in check. Without these snakes, we would have more rats and mice than we would like. They play a crucial role in many of the ecosystems in North America.
When this snake was brought to a veterinary clinic suffering from a very serious fungal infection, there was no question that it needed and deserved medical treatment so that it could eventually be released back into the wild in a healthy state. But the challenge was to find a way to treat a venomous wild snake, especially around the face where the worst of the infection was.
Handling a rattlesnake is never a good idea, even when you are trying to help it. The snake’s fangs, venom, and its ability to deliver a lightning quick strike make it an impossible task to safely get near its head. But the ingenious technique shown here allowed the veterinarian to place the snake in a position where she could treat it.
Snakes are happy to slither into enclosed spaces so it was offered the end of a plastic tube with a carefully selected diameter. The tube was big enough for the entire snake, yet it prevented the snake from turning and biting. It also provided an enclosed space with just the right amount of air around the snake's body. The veterinarian applied antifungal ointment to the body of the snake once it had its head safely in the tube. Then she attached a nebulizer to the end of the tube near the snake's head. This device aerosolized the antifungal medication being used to treat the infection. Particles of the liquid were then able to pass over the snake and cover the infected areas with a delicate coating of medication. This treatment actually allowed a very thorough and easily measured application.
After the snake had been in the tube long enough, it was gently removed and placed back in the protective box to allow the medication to do its job. Not only was the snake less agitated than it would have been if it had been held down, but the veterinarian's fingers never came within reach of the venomous bite.
Massasauga rattlesnakes are widely feared, and often, they are needlessly killed by those who think they are dangerous to humans. Although there is a potential for danger with almost any wild animal, rattlesnake bites are extremely rare and they are not often deadly. The whole point of the snake's rattle is to warn people and other animals of their presence and the need to back away. They are reluctant to actually bite people. Even if bitten, a healthy adult human would rarely suffer serious effects from a massasauga rattlesnake bite. The benefit of having healthy rattlesnakes greatly outweighs the risk, and people who understand them will tell us that they are easily avoided. If you see a rattlesnake, give it space, take a picture, enjoy the moment, and consider yourself lucky to have seen such a beautiful and beneficial animal.