Though rattlesnake bites are rare, officials urge caution after bitten child dies near Colorado Springs

Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife
A prarie rattlesnake.

A six-year-old boy has died after being bitten by a rattlesnake near Colorado Springs. Television station KKTV said the boy was bitten on July 5 at the Bluestem Prairie Open Space in Security-Widefield. He died Monday.

Colorado Springs Fire Department Captain Don Watkins said such bites are rare — his department responds to such calls only once or twice a year. Still, Watkins said encountering a snake is not something to take lightly.  

If someone is bitten, Watkins recommends that they limit movement, call 911 and let first responders come to them rather than trying to hurry to a hospital.

“You don’t want to elevate the heart rate anymore than you have to,” he said. “We want to keep the patient as calm as possible. We have all of our medical equipment with us. We will come to you.”

Authorities also suggest trying to get a picture of the snake involved in a bite if possible, while remaining at a safe distance.

Drew Vrbenec, with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the prairie rattlesnake is by far the most common venomous snake in Colorado, and that it’s commonly found in shortgrass prairie along the state’s front range. Getting a photo is important, he said, since rattlesnakes are often confused with the similar-looking, but nonvenomous bull snake. 

“[The bull snake’s] line of defense is to mimic a rattlesnake in hopes somebody would think that it is that and back away,” Vrbenec said.

Vrbenec said it’s a good idea to slowly back away from whatever snake you encounter in the outdoors. He also suggests not wearing headphones when hiking along the front range — especially in mornings and evenings when rattlesnakes are often most active — in order to be able to hear the snake’s characteristic rattle.