It seems like my social media feed has been full of snakes lately. Lots of my friends are posting pictures of snakes they've found while out hiking or even in their backyards. The Billings Gazette just reported about a 5-year-old Billings kid who got bit by a rattlesnake in a Heights park this week (he was treated and is expected to fully recover).

Livescience explains that humans' fear of snakes is likely an evolutionary trait. Don't get bit by a deadly snake = living another day to reproduce. That makes sense. They took their study even deeper and found that while babies and toddlers do not seem to have a natural-born fear of snakes, children as young as three were able to quickly find snake images hidden in test pictures.

We talked to Jeff the Nature Guy from ZooMontana last week and he explained that fatal snake encounters in Montana are actually extremely rare. Out of the 10 snake species in Montana, only one is venomous and that is the prairie (or western) rattlesnake. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports that out of the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy our outdoors each year, there are usually only 5 - 6 reports of bites each year and that there has not been one death reported out of 45 bites in the past eight years. We asked Jeff if this season is an exceptionally good year for snakes and he said it's probably about average and that snake population numbers don't really vary much from year to year. It just seems like you are seeing a lot of the slithery creatures.

The ten species of snakes you'll find in Montana (outside of a pet store) are:

  • Eastern Racer
  • Rubber Boa
  • Western Hog-nosed
  • Smooth Greensnake
  • Western Terrestrial Gartersnake
  • Plains Gartersnake
  • Common Gartersnake
  • Prairie Rattlesnake (also called Western Rattlesnake)
  • Milksnake
  • Gophersnake

While all of them may creep you out, remember only the rattlesnake is venomous. Montana FW&P says "the chances of being bitten by a rattlesnake in Montana are less than being struck by lightning," but you should still be cautious in snake country.

Some of their common sense tips include: wearing stout leather boots that cover your ankles, not sticking your hands into snakey looking places, watching where you walk, keeping a clean campsite, traveling in groups of at least three people and if you happen to encounter a rattlesnake DO NOT try to kill it or poke it. Just go around. You can read their full list of tips HERE.