Campus Life

Watch for rattlesnakes in area coulees

The University of Lethbridge's unique, natural setting is one of its finest features. On a daily basis, students, staff and faculty are treated to glimpses of the surrounding prairie wildlife.

While most of the neighbouring wildlife is harmless, there are some species from which people should stay clear – namely the prairie rattlesnake. A recent sighting on campus has brought to light the need for people to exercise caution when walking around campus, particularly in the coulee areas where snakes are occasionally sighted.

Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and given a choice will retreat rather than strike. Although some people may find them loathsome, rattlesnakes are a naturally occurring species in a properly functioning prairie ecosystem such as we have around Lethbridge. They are practically harmless and will only strike if extremely provoked or stepped on. They play a very important role in the control of rodents and thus reduce the spread of diseases such as hanta virus.

Rattlesnakes are the color of dry prairie grass and have a very well defined, triangular-shaped head. They may or may not possess rattles. Lethbridge is also home to the bull snake, which imitates the rattlesnake by coiling up and shaking its tail, but it does not actually have a rattle. Bull snakes are not poisonous.

If you see a rattlesnake, walk slowly away from it. Give the snake plenty of room to escape from you and then notify Campus Security at 403-329-2345. They will have a specialist relocate the snake to a natural habitat.

In Alberta, rattlesnakes are blue-listed, meaning they have undergone declines in population or habitat and may be at risk. It is illegal to kill rattlesnakes, possess rattlesnakes or their parts or damage occupied den areas. There are significant charges and fines for killing a rattlesnake in Alberta.