Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Jacob Misener
Editor 

Several rattlesnake dens confirmed within city limits

City of Kimball has seen drastic rise in number of reports this summer

 

Christy Rowley

Several rattlesnake dens have been confirmed within the city limits of Kimball over the course of the past three weeks, raising concern amongst residents of the potential threat the snakes pose.

Three rattlesnake dens have been reported in the city limits of Kimball in the past two weeks, according to local authorities. Two of the dens were located on Howard Street and the third in the 700 block of Berg Street.

A bull snake was also killed on Vista Drive, and afterwards, a baby rattlesnake was found inside the larger snake, indicating the presence of young rattlesnakes in the area, possibly the aforementioned locations on Howard Street and Berg Street.

“There are a lot of snakes in the area right now,” said Kimball Police Chief Darren Huff. “I haven’t heard about anyone being bitten. But the bad news is that with the baby rattlesnakes, they dispense their venom, but can’t regulate it. That means even to an adult, it can be fatal.”

According to the Kimball Police Department dispatcher, Katherine Terrill, who has worked in Kimball for the last 12 years, the police have received approximately three to four calls concerning individual rattlesnakes in her time with the department, never dens – up until recently.

Many have questioned what is causing the increase in snakes, and according to Mike Fritz, the National Heritage Zoologist with Nebraska Game & Parks, there could be several factors that are at play in Kimball.

“Usually, snakes use the same denning sites year after year,” said Fritz. “They go into these areas during the fall and come out again in the spring. With the longer, more protracted winter, it may have kept animals near denning areas longer.”

Huff is warning residents of the potential threat these snakes pose, especially in city limits, and is urging vigilance.

“People need to make an effort to keep their lawn cut and weeded,” said Huff. “You don’t want to create any area that acts as a safe haven for them, because they like shade when it’s hot out. Don’t create anything that they may be able to hide in, like overturned kiddie pools or toys left in the yard.”

Another potential explanation for the increase in rattlesnakes within city limits, according to Fritz, originates with the severe drought that hit Nebraska last year, and has continued to a lesser degree this year.

“We’ve seen very low rodent populations in our surveys this year,” said Fritz. “It’s possible the snakes are moving trying to find more prey in areas that are watered and with more grass. There are multiple factors that could be causing this.”

The latest report of a rattlesnake came late last week, when one was spotted on Evergreen Street. This report, along with the report from Vista Drive, were the first that did not originate on the west side of Kimball. Prior to those two incidents, all sightings were confined to a three-block radius near Kimball Health Services on the western side of town.

Along with the decreased food sources and the prolonged winter weather, a third potential cause for the snakes’ intrusion into human-occupied areas is the wide array of construction throughout the area, which may have impacted long-standing denning areas, according to Fritz.

“It’s possible that historical denning sites have now been destroyed and new sites will have to be established,” said Fritz.

Local medical facilities are prepared for any potential bites, according to Ken Hunter, Chief Executive Officer for Kimball Health Services.

“We’ve got anti-venom serum here at the hospital,” said Hunter.

Director of the Kimball Hospital Foundation and Community Relations Kerry Ferguson reiterated what Hunter said, stating that the hospital currently has four doses of anti-venom on-hand, which is enough to begin treatment for an individual. That being said, in the last five years, there have been just two cases of rattlesnake bites at Kimball Health Services.

“We have what it takes to get treatment started on someone,” said Ferguson. “These only have a shelf-life of between 18 months and two years, but all the Panhandle hospitals will cooperate with one another, so more is only a phone call away.”

Jacob Misener

One of the incidents involved a resident killing a bull snake, and then discovering that it contained a baby rattlesnake inside.

According to statistics from the Extension Wildlife, if bitten by a venomous snake, one should follow these steps: stay calm and get to a hospital or physician as quickly and safely as possible. The office also lays out steps that are commonly believed to be proper treatment for bites, but are actually likely to increase the amount of danger an individual is in.

If bitten, it is important that the affected person does not consume alcoholic beverages, attempt to cool the bite area, attempt to tourniquet the injury or cut into the bitten area.

If you or a loved one spot a rattlesnake, please contact local authorities immediately. The Kimball Police Department can be reached at 308-235-3615. If a bite occurs, please proceed directly to the closest medical facility, or call 911.

 

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