Rattlesnakes in Eugene: 'They're going to bite in self defense'

EUGENE, Ore. - A western rattlesnake found a temporary home underneath a parked car at KVAL studios this week.

"In the case of a parking lot in the evening time, the snake might have been there absorbing some heat from the parking lot, from the asphalt," said Brian Wolfer, wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wolfer said he does get calls about rattlesnakes - but when he asks to see pictures, more often than not they turn out to be gopher or bull snakes.

"They have the same markings across the back and they will even mimic a rattlesnake as a self-defense mechanism," he said. "They'll rattle their tale in leaves or dry grass, and it will sound like a rattle."

Wolfer said the sighting at KVAL is only the second he has heard of this year in this area. Most sightings come from east of the mountains.

And while western rattlesnakes are uncommon to the area, one of the more prevalent areas they are spotted is Spencer Butte. There's a sign currently posted saying to be aware that there's been an increased sighting of rattlesnakes.

Wolfer said the good thing about a rattlesnake: it lets you know when you're nearby. As long as you don't provoke it, you should be just fine.

"Most of the time if someone is bit by a rattlesnake, it's because they were messing with it, trying to catch it or handle it," he said. "They're going to bite in self defense; they don't go after people, so to speak."

If you do suffer a bite, Wolfer said to stay calm and get to a hospital. Don't put a tourniquet on it or try and suck out the venom. Although the snakes are venomous, they won't always release it.

"When they're biting in self defense, sometimes they will hold back that venom because they don't want to waste the venom on a self defense bite."