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  1. Identify the snake (if possible). Take note of the snake, its colouring, pattern, and
    size. You will be asked to describe the snake when you reach the medical facility.
    This will aid doctors in determining whether you were bitten by a rattlesnake, and whether you have been envenomated. Often snakes will not envenomate prey which is significantly larger than they are (such as humans), and you will not require anti-venom.
  2. DO NOT try to catch the snake! (refer to section two for identification information).


Have an emergency plan in place at all times. Whether hiking, camping, cottaging, living or working in rattlesnake areas, be prepared. Have the phone numbers of emergency services (hospitals, police, Coast Guard) handy, as well as relevant information about yourself (how to describe your location, emergency routes, meeting location/pick up or transfer point if you are not near roads, or if you have boat access). Also, keep Toronto Zoo’s “Snakes of Ontario” identifier at hand.


The various snakebite kits available are
mostly ineffective and, in the event of a rattlesnake bite, could possibly increase
the risk of further injury. With the help of
this guide, common sense and the
resources in section 7, you will have enough
information in the case of a massasauga bite.


A person bitten by a massasauga rattlesnake requires medical treatment. Medical centres stock or have access to anti-venom and, when necessary, can administer the serum intravenously to patients. However, in many cases anti-venom is not required.

In Ontario, the Poison Control Centre at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa coordinate the treatment of venomous snakebites. Calls from emergency services, and/or doctors treating snakebite are taken at the poison control centre. From there, the centre may contact the Toronto Zoo and other experts to confirm the snake identification, as well as to ensure the treatment facility has anti-venom in stock, or is restocked immediately.

If bitten, and you are in an area where rattlesnakes are found, get to the nearest hospital or treatment centre via ambulance. If required, anti-venom will be transported to that centre. Neither hospitals nor treatment centres provide anti-venom for animal treatment, nor to individuals prior to a bite incident e.g.: travel to a remote area.

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