Just as most Seattleites headed outside to enjoy the warm weather last Saturday, June 22, so did a dangerous out-of-towner. A Seattle Animal Shelter enforcement officer arrived at North 120th Street and Fremont Avenue North within 15 minutes of receiving a report of a rattlesnake, approximately 2 feet in length, sunning itself on a rock wall. The officer safely confined the snake and transported it immediately to the shelter.
The snake was identified as a Western Rattlesnake, which is indigenous to Eastern Washington. Rattlesnakes are classified as an exotic animal by the Seattle Municipal Code and are not legal in the Seattle city limits. All venomous reptiles and amphibians, regardless of whether the venom glands have been removed, and all snakes that are 8 feet or more in length are defined as exotic animals and not allowed in Seattle.
It is unknown how the snake ended up in north Seattle or whether this was someone’s illegal pet, but the cool moist climate of Western Washington is not suitable for rattlesnakes and if not rescued by the shelter, it is unlikely it would have survived for long. The shelter worked with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and a state-licensed wildlife control operator to return the snake to its native habitat in Eastern Washington. On Wednesday, June 26, the rattlesnake was transported from the shelter to begin its journey back to browner pastures.
“This is a perfect example of why people should take extra precaution when approaching any snake,” says Seattle Animal Shelter Director Don Jordan. “You just never know what species may be encountered in Western Washington. Parents really need to instill this message with their children.”
Though dangerous, rattlesnakes play an important role in balancing the ecosystem. They help control the population of rodents and other small mammals, which if go unchecked, can quickly become a nuisance to the environment and can have devastating effects on agriculture, particularly in Eastern Washington.
The Seattle Animal Shelter offers the following precautions to minimize conflicts with rattlesnakes while hiking in areas which may be prone to this particular species of snake:
- Stick to well-used, open trails. In brushy areas, use a walking stick to alert a snake of your approach.
- Avoid walking through thick brush and willow thickets.
- Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see.
- Wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants.
- Watch rattlesnakes from a distance, and be aware of defensive behaviors, such as coiling and tail-rattling, that let you know you are too close.
If you happen to encounter a rattlesnake, move away from it slowly – a rattlesnake will coil into a defensive posture if it cannot escape. If you remain too close, the rattlesnake will usually warn you with its distinctive rattle and if threatened, its last defensive move is to strike. Remember, all of these warnings are meant to help avoid conflict as rattlesnakes want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them.
For more information on rattlesnakes and other wildlife you can visit the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife webpage “Living with Wildlife” at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/snakes.html#rattlesnakes.
To meet the other critters available for adoption from the shelter please visit us at 2061 15th Ave. W, about a mile south of the Ballard Bridge. The shelter is open Wednesday through Sunday, noon-6 p.m. for adoptions and pet licensing. If you would like more information or directions, please call (206) 386-7387 (PETS) or visit the shelter’s website at http://www.seattleanimalshelter.org.