North Dakota is home to many types of snakes. The largest is the bullsnake. It averages 83 inches long. The record length is 93 inches. They would rather escape than attack. If cornered, a bullsnake will open its mouth, hiss, vibrate its tail, and appear ready to strike. Fortunately, bullsnakes aren’t venomous, but they’re often killed because they appear dangerous. Bullsnakes are most common in the western part of the state.
Also found in the west are racers, a fast snake that’s difficult to catch. They usually live near water.
Another North Dakota snake is the common garter snake. They can be found throughout the state, often in populated areas. They are harmless to people, but useful because they eat bugs.
The prairie rattlesnake is North Dakota’s only venomous snake. It’s found west of the Missouri River. It averages three feet in length, with the largest nearly five feet. The prairie rattlesnake is most commonly spotted in the spring and fall. Their most recognizable feature is the rattle on their tail. Some people think the size of the rattle indicates the age of the snake, but there’s actually no connection. The sound of the rattle is a warning and should be taken seriously. The snake can strike quickly and its venom can cause death. However, people should remember that snakes help control pests like mice, rats, and gophers.
On this date in 1908, Mr. Dreveskracht of Stanton was bitten on the wrist. He had come across several young snakes, and thought he would find a stick and kill them, but hadn’t noticed an older rattler. He was able to kill it when it struck, but too late – it had already bitten him. The Washburn Leader reported that Dreveskracht “happened to have a flask of whiskey in his pocket which no doubt saved his life.” It is not clear, however, if he poured the whiskey on the bite or if he drank it.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.
Washburn Leader. “Bitten by a Rattler.” 11 September, 1908.