Rattlesnake Bites: How to Survive

According to Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP), ten snake species live in Montana and of those, only one species, the prairie rattle-snake, is venomous. FWP reports that rattlesnake bites are extremely rare and only five or six reports of people being bitten in Montana per year. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center reports that of the 45 people who have reported being bitten in Montana over the past eight years, not one death has resulted from those bites.


If you are bitten by a rattlesnake there is a protocol that will improve odds of survival. First and foremost you need to seek medical attention immediately. Seek to get to a medical facility, such as Pondera Medical Center, that carries the anti-venom year-round. Dial 911 or call local EMS. If possible, make note of the color and markings or take a photo of the snake, but do not put yourself in danger or waste time in doing so. Remain calm and be as still as possible to slow the spread of the venom. While waiting for EMS apply these first aid tips derived from the CDC and Mayo Clinic: lay with the bitten limb or area at or below the level of the heart, remove jewelry or tight clothing before any swelling occurs, stay calm and still, and cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.


The CDC and Mayo Clinic further expound on recommendations of what NOT to do and symptoms to watch for. The following is a collaboration of the two sources recommendations:

DO NOT do the following:

  • Pick up the snake

  • Flush the wound with water or any liquid

  • Cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom in any way

  • Apply a tourniquet, ice or heat to the area

  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverag


Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite will likely begin within 15 to 30 minutes of being bitten, which can include:

  • Puncture marks

  • Redness, swelling, burning, and/or severe pain around the bite

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Labored breathing

  • Rapid pulse

  • Blurred vision or drooping eyelids

  • Increased salivation and sweating

  • Fever

  • Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs

  • Dizziness or fainting

Pondera Medical Center will perform a clinical diagnosis and treatment plan for snake bite victims. Our healthcare providers are trained and experienced with snake bite treatment and have anti-venom for rattlesnake bites available on site year-round. The easiest way to prevent a snake bite is to be cautious when outdoors. Be aware and cautious when walking in or near tall grass, debris and other objects, and water ways such as lakes and streams. If you do see a snake, slowly back away, let surrounding people know in a calm manner that there is a snake in the area and try to leave the area as soon as you can. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to call us at 406-271-3231. Or visit



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