Law enforcement officials are urging residents throughout Big Horn County to watch where they step after a teen literally stumbled on a rattlesnake in Lovell at around 10 p.m., on Monday. The large rattlesnake was apparently warming itself on a sidewalk located well within city limits.
Rachelle Smith, 14, was walking home on the warm summer night when she felt something move under her foot. That “something” turned out to be a rattlesnake.
“I didn’t see it, I just felt it move and then there was a loud sound,” said Smith. “It scared me so much that I ran as fast as I could to the nearest house to call my dad. I was shaking all over and my face must have been pure white.”
The incident took place on Kansas Street, between Second and Third Streets, near where an alley intersects with the sidewalk.
“People tell me that I was lucky that I wasn’t wearing sandals,” said Smith, who fortunately was wearing closed athletic type shoes and long pants at the time, which may have protected her somewhat. “It made a lot of noise and tried to bite at me right away. I jumped out of the way and ran as fast as I could. I didn’t even look back to see if it was coming after me.”
Smith’s father was at the scene almost immediately and ran over the snake with his truck to prevent it from striking one of the many children who had now gathered at the scene to see the snake.
A nearby resident noticed the commotion out on the street and, thinking there was a fight in progress, called the Lovell Police Department for assistance. Within moments Sergeant Noe Garcia was at the scene expecting to break up a teen scuffle only to find a very large rattlesnake stretched across the road. The rattlesnake measured 28½ inches and had eight buttons, and in Garcia’s words, was “pretty much dead” by the time he arrived.
“It’s unusual to see one right in town like this, but I’m not surprised with the hot dry weather to see one,” said Garcia. “You see rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the road like this all the time out in the country, but no so much right in town like this.”
Lovell Police Chief Nick Lewis cautioned that if one snake made its way into town, there may be others in town as well and that Smith, who had never seen a live rattlesnake before, was very lucky to somehow escape a snakebite.
“Parents need to tell their kids to stay away from snakes if they see one in town like this,” said Lewis. “Most kids who live in town haven’t seen a rattlesnake before, and they have no idea how dangerous they are.”
This is not the first incident this week where a rattlesnake found its way into a residential area in the county. A resident of Basin reported one under his porch and called sheriff’s deputies to help him remove it.
Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn noted that he found one on his own property recently in Cowley.
“They’re out right now probably looking for water in this hot and dry weather,” said Blackburn. “People really need to keep their eyes open for them. They can turn up anywhere.”
Residents are urged to call 911 for assistance if they see a rattlesnake in town.
“If people call us, we’ll come out and help them,” said Garcia. “It’s better to call us, if they’re not used to dealing with snakes, than to risk getting bit.”
By Patti Carpenter