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Rattlesnakes begin to emerge from winter dens in Lethbridge

If you encounter a rattlesnake in Lethbridge, you're asked to contact the city's Rattlesnake Mitigation Program to have it relocated to a safer place. If you encounter a rattlesnake in Lethbridge, you're asked to contact the city's Rattlesnake Mitigation Program to have it relocated to a safer place.
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Rattlesnakes have begun emerging from their winter dens in Lethbridge’s coulees.

"They’ve actually been out for probably a week or so," said Ryan Heavy Head, a local rattlesnake wrangler and ecologist consultant, who saw his first rattlesnakes on Tuesday.

"I expect them to hang close to their dens for another week or two, but then they're going to be migrating, and that's when I get my first big wave of encounters," Heavy Head said.

He says the snakes are out soaking up the sunshine after a long winter in brumation.

With the snakes now visible to Lethbridge residents, Heavy Head is reminding those using coulee pathways to be diligent.

"It’s not smart to run your dogs off leash here, or treat it as a manicured recreation area. It is really a wilderness area and you will encounter snakes on the coulee rims right up to the houses," Heavy Head said.

"Stay on the paths and don’t wander down into the coulees."

Heavy Head also works with the City of Lethbridge as a consultant for the rattlesnake mitigation program.

"Over the last, maybe 15 years or so, the calls increased as the program became more recognized in the city, and then it got to 150-170 calls and it's stayed around that size," he said.

"I expect that to be the same this year."

If you encounter a rattlesnake in Lethbridge, you're asked to contact the city's Rattlesnake Mitigation Program to have it relocated to a safer place. But, with continued development of west-side neighbourhoods and the University of Lethbridge Science Commons, Heavy Head says he has seen an uptick in the number of the calls he received last year coming from the south side.

"I’ve been getting a lot of calls from the Lethbridge Country Club, Scenic Heights, Chinook Heights and those kinds of areas … So there has been a little bit of snake movement around, trying to find new hunting opportunities," Heavy Head explained.

Four different types of snakes can be found in Lethbridge: the prairie rattlesnake, bull snake, plains garter snake and wandering garter snake. Out of the four, only the prairie rattlesnake is venomous.

Heavy Head says when he removes a snake from populated area, most times he'll release it a short distance away, keeping the snake close to its habitat.

If you encounter a rattlesnake this season, you can contact the City of Lethbridge’s Rattlesnake Mitigation Program https://www.lethbridge.ca/bylaws-animal-services/rattlesnake-mitigation/ to have it relocated to a safer place.

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