Along Black Hills trails and walkways you'll occasionally see signs warning of rattlesnakes. Yes, western South Dakota is rattler country and the signs should be taken seriously. But it's comforting to know many people who live in the Black Hills (maybe most) have never seen a rattlesnake in the wild. Common sense hints: don't wear flip-flops through tall grass, don't reach your hand onto a ledge you can't see while climbing, and don't be an intoxicated man under age 30. Young drunken males are the most common rattlesnake victims, and not because snakes seek them out. No, it's because these men try-to out-macho snakes when they encounter them, or they try to find them on purpose. If you hear the rattle (really more of a buzz) of a snake unhappy about your presence, don't run. Running away blindly could result in stepping on the rattler -- the nastiest of human/snake encounters. Instead stop, try to get a visual fix, and back away slowly. Then relax and treat yourself to a beer. But not enough beer so that you're tempted to go back and out-macho the snake.
Photo courtesy Reptile Gardens