Greenspace: Don’t be rattled at the Rattlesnake Jubilee

September 2, 2018

The Friends of the Houston County Nature Center want you to know rattlesnakes are less dangerous than lightning.

To that end, they’re hosting a Rattlesnake Jubilee on Sept. 15, where you’ll have the opportunity to learn what these snakes look like, where they live and how to coexist with this threatened species in safety and without fear.

Kelly Bloem, event organizer and treasurer of the Friends of Houston County Nature Center, says the event particularly is relevant to those living in the bluff country of Winona, Houston, Goodhue, Fillmore and Wabasha counties where timber rattlesnakes, the only rattlesnake living in Minnesota, are most likely to be found.

“If you live in a big city, you don’t walk across the street without looking both ways. If you live in the blufflands, it’s important to know basic rattlesnake safety,” Bloem said. “The event is about encouraging people to learn more for safety reasons and to dispel fear.”

Bloem says the fear people have of rattlesnakes is misplaced, noting that only one person every five to six years dies from a rattlesnake bite in the United States, while lightning kills an average of 49 people per year.

“The level of fear that people have is way out of proportion with the risk,” Bloem said. “We just want people to learn and be aware so they don’t have to be so scared.”

The Jubilee has invited guest speakers to educate people about best practices for responding to rattlesnake sightings and bites.

Stephen Winter, a volunteer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is part of a program that relocates rattlesnakes from residential property. He’ll be speaking about the program at 11:30 a.m. and providing additional information about how to respond to encountering a rattlesnake.

At 1 p.m., featured speaker Dr. Dan Keyley will give a presentation on rattlesnake envenomation, or snakebites. Dr. Keyler is retired from the Hennepin County Medical Center, but he continues to be an internationally consulted expert on venomous bites of all sorts. In his talk, he’ll discuss statistics related to rattlesnake bites, treatment methods and how to appropriately respond to being bitten.

The Jubilee isn’t all talk and snakebites, however. There also will be multiple opportunities to see live snakes and learn to identify timber rattlesnakes as well as other snakes living in the area. Minnesota snake expert Jim Gerholdt will demonstrate snake identification in presentations at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

There also will be a special field trip to private land in rural Houston County where people may have the chance to see some wild timber rattlesnakes. The tour is open to ages 13 and older, although minors must be accompanied by an adult.

Registration for the tour is required. If received by Sept. 7, tickets are $15 per person or $20 after that date. The tour is limited to 20 participants.

Even if you don’t go on a snake-spotting tour, Bloem says there will be plenty of fun and family-friendly activities to do at the community center all day. Between the scheduled sessions and speakers, there will be vendors providing snake-themed crafts, books, shirts and snacks.

“It’s very much about education, awareness, safety, but also fun stuff too,” Bloem said of the Jubilee festivities.

The goal of the Jubilee, Bloem says, is to teach people about the presence of snakes in the area and help them lose any irrational fear of snakes they may have.

“Anybody who is scared, I would highly recommend coming because the more you know, the less scared you’re going to be,” she said.

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