Introducing some local residents that solar eclipse visitors will not want to meet.
Grant County is home to some critters that eclipse visitors might not be familiar with. I will use this edition of The Gazette
to alert visitors about some of the more troublesome. The first among these are rattlesnakes. They are fairly common in eastern Oregon and mid summer is when they range most widely. The will tend to stay near water and rattlesnakes can swim quite well so you may encounter them in the water. They are not aggressive, their prey is squirrels and rabbits and the like, so they will not bite anything larger unless they feel threatened.
Rattlesnake bites are seldom fatal for an adult human although it can make one very ill. If you are bitten, it is important to stay calm, if possible keep the bitten area as high as possible and get to the hospital as quickly as possible. The only hospital in Grant County is the Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day and they will have snake antivenin there. The phone number for the hospital is 541-575-1311. Don't try to suck the venom out of the bite, that does not work. But don't panic every time you see a snake. Grant County has lots of snakes and all the others are harmless like this bull snake here which is very similar to a rattler except no rattles. The National Forest Service has some more good advice about rattlers here
The other one to watch out for is the black widow spider. The ones around are all the same: shiny black with a bright red hour glass on the underside of the abdomen with legs that come to a very sharp point. If a spider could be a spike-heeled patent leather dominatrix this is exactly what they would look like. They range in length from 1/2\" (12mm) up to a little over an inch (30mm). They like dark corners and the undersides of things. A bucket or tub left upside down outdoors for a couple of months will probably have a black widow living in it. A spider bite is not likely to be fatal but it will leave a raw area about an inch in diameter that is very slow to heal. Once again, if bitten, get to the hospital as quickly as possible. "
If you are out in the woods, Grant County does have bears and mountain lions. The bears in Oregon are black bears. They run 155-500 lbs (70-230kg) and are not particularly aggressive. You probably will not see a mountain lion even if one happens to be nearby. Of the two the cat is more worrisome. A bear attack is unlikely but there have been cases of mountain lions killing children or small adults. If you do see bears, they are probably drawn by your food. Keep all food in your vehicle or a sealed container and out of reach. For the mountain lions, keep your children from wandering and travel in groups as much as possible. A bear fogger may be a worthwhile investment if only for peace of mind.
My advice regarding pets is to leave them at home. If you do bring them, they will be subject to the dangers mentioned above plus several more. Dogs get bitten by snakes fairly often. They will often find a snake and stand and bark at it until they get bitten. A snake bite can kill a dog depending on the dog's size. If your dog is bitten, if possible carry them to your car, the less active they are the less the venom will spread. Keep them as cool as possible and get them to the vet as quickly as possible. There are two veterinarians in Grant County, both in John Day. John Day River Veterinary Center 541-932-4428 and Canyon Creek Veterinary Clinic 541-575-0212. You may be able to give your dog rattlesnake vaccine before you come, ask your own veterinarian. Pets are subject to a number of threats that people are not. Grant County is home to a number of raptors and owls which are quite capable of sweeping up a cat or small dog. I know of cases where that has happened on somebody's porch. Coyotes are common here. A cat might be able to escape up a tree but a dog that encounters a coyote pack is in real trouble.
Other things dog owners need to be aware of are porcupines and skunks. The porcupine's defense is a body covered with sharp quills which penetrate the attacker's mouth when they try to bite. The quills are constructed so they are very difficult to extract. You may need to take your dog to the vet to get the quills removed. Skunks' defense is a spray with an extremely pungent odor. Skunks are approximately cat sized animals with black body and a prominent white stripe running the length of the back. If you see one and it turns its back and raises its tail get as far way as fast as you can. If your pet encounters a skunk, you can wash the musk off eventually and in the meantime you will find out just how much you really love your pet. Finally, remember that you are in high desert in mid summer and your pet probably has a fur coat they can not remove. Make sure they get plenty of water and do not leave them locked up without air conditioning.
Here is some additional information from the Forest Service:\"Porcupines and skunks: Porcupines cannot ‘throw’ their quills, but they will swing their tail at an attacker which results in quills embedded in whatever body part gets impacted (often the face of a dog). If there are only a few external (outside the mouth) quills you may be able to remove them yourself if you have someone to hold the dog down and keep them calm. Using pliers grip the quill near the skin and pull straight out. If the dog has taken a large number of quills and-or has them inside its mouth it is likely best to take the dog to a veterinarian where the dog can be sedated for removal. Skunk spray is never pleasant. I have personally used a homemade remedy recommended by my veterinarian (1 quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ Cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid). Rub this thoroughly into the dog’s coat (I wear latex gloves) and let it sit for 5 minutes before washing it out. You may need to repeat this a number of times. Best to do outdoors if possible, to avoid tracking the stench into the house.\"
Not life threatening but nuisances: You or your pet could encounter ticks. These are blood suckers and they look like a black lump on the skin. As they fill up with blood, they grow bigger and can look very much like a watermelon seed. They can be disease vectors. If you or your pet encounter one, grasp it as close to the skin as possible and pull it out and crush it. The other nuisance insect is the mosquito especially near water. They will be thick around the river and any lakes and streams. You should prepare accordingly.
Here is some advice from the Mike Stearly of the Forest Service: \"Basic USFS Outdoor Safety tips can be found here
. The Wallowa-Whitman has an Outdoor Safety Page
which has 8 Wildlife Species links (Bees, Black Bear, Mosquitos, Mountain Lion, Snakes, Spiders, Ticks, Wolves). The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website has in-depth info
on Bats, Bears (note that we only have Black Bears in our area), Snakes, Mountain Lions, and Ticks (note that we have Lyme disease here which is not mentioned for Montana). Rattlesnakes do occur in the town of John Day and other areas in Grant County. Rule of thumb – do not reach into areas you cannot see, e.g. beneath bushes, into a jumble of rocks, etc. Also, we have many Gopher snakes (aka Bull Snakes) in this area which are frequently confused with rattlesnakes. While they don’t like to be disturbed, they are not poisonous. Black widows are not a general hazard, but as they like dark dry shelters they can sometimes be found in outhouses. They are not an aggressive spider and most bites occur from accidental encounters. If you are camping on the National Forest, keep a clean camp and do not feed ANY of the wildlife. Human food can be detrimental to wildlife health and result in a loss of fear of humans and aggressive behaviors to obtain food. Wild animals generally avoid human contact, but if you do see an animal in the wild, maintain your distance. Don’t attempt to feed, catch or pet a wild animal. Never approach wildlife babies or animal mothers with their babies; the mother’s protective response can be very fierce. Report injured or aggressive animals to authorities; don’t attempt to give aid to injured wildlife. If an injured animal approaches you, move slowly away.\"
But most of all, relax. I realize that listing all the things that could possibly cause trouble is a little overwhelming. In point of fact encountering any of the things I have listed other than the mosquito is very unlikely. Snake bites are the next most likely but still rare. If you give a rattler any choice they will leave as quickly as they can. Come prepared, pay attention to your surroundings and you will have the experience of a lifetime.