Officials with Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest said that on Tuesday, July 19, 2023, they received a report from a staff member about a "negative encounter" between her dog and a rattlesnake.
It happened along Sulphur Springs Trail just northeast of Great Falls, near Morony Dam. Her dog is okay but spent the night at an emergency vet clinic.
Two additional rattlesnakes were observed following this negative encounter.
The prairie rattlesnake, Montana’s only native venomous snake, is found throughout the state, according to the Montana Field Guide.
The prairie rattler likes tall grass, river banks, and rocky outcrops that face the sun. If you go out for a hike, walk with a group, keep your dog on a leash, and consider a walking stick. If you do hear a rattle, check your surroundings.
Last year, MTN News reported on the availability of a rattlesnake vaccine for dogs.
Anna Sims, DVM for Associated Veterinary Services, said at the time, "The rattlesnake vaccine is to build immunity against a rattlesnake bite for your dogs. The idea behind that is if or when your pet would get bit by a snake, then they would have some immunity of their own to that to be able to fight that bite, hopefully causing less of a severe reaction in buying you time to get to a veterinarian."
Although recommended by many veterinarians, it's still in the early stages of development.
Veterinarians acknowledge that more clinical trials need to be done, which is why it's not a recommended core vaccine - such as rabies - but for those looking to head outdoors this summer, the vaccine will be offered if requested.
"I do recommend it on a case-by-case basis," Sims said, "and so what that means is I would recommend it if you are hiking, camping, fishing, going hunting, anything like that. I definitely recommend you talk to your veterinarian and see if it's right for your pet."
The veterinarians we talked with all said while the rattlesnake vaccine may be recommended, it is also important to discuss this with your dog's vet.
Veterinarians say it is a two-shot series that they give to start initially, and then booster annually after that. It is recommended during the springtime,