‘My heart was racing’: Lethbridge teenager rides bike through rattlesnake lair

LETHBRIDGE — What started out as a laid-back bike ride through the sloughs turned into a nightmare for 14-year-old mountain biker Raiden Peter and his friend.

The two teenagers were looking for new trails and jumps when they accidentally rode straight into a rattlesnake lair.

“As my friend was passing I think he set off the snakes or something because as I was passing one of them jumped on me,” Peter said.

“I just threw my bike at it and ran about 30 feet. I was so scared.”

The boys quickly called the City of Lethbridge Rattlesnake Program for help getting their bikes back.

Within 45 minutes, eco-consultant Ryan First Diver, also known as “Rattlesnake Wrangler”, was on the scene to help the terrified teenagers.

“I’ve been in this position where you accidentally walk into a den and what you see around you is writhing, hissing, rattling snakes diving for holes and it’s scary,” First Diver said.

Luckily no one was bitten in the process and the boys got their bikes back shortly after help arrived.

“My heart was racing and I was just (felt) relieved,” Raiden Peter said. “Much relief and thank goodness no one was bitten.”

First Diver has since posted the interaction to its YouTube account where it lists most of its rattlesnake calls.

There is certainly no shortage of rattlesnakes in the Lethbridge area, especially on the west side of the Coulées where there is plenty of sunshine for most of the day.

First Diver said he expects this season to be busier than usual given that more people are likely to stay closer to home and wander around snake country given the restrictions of current trip, but the recent construction also adds the influx of calls.

“Over the last three or four years, with all the development on the west side (of the city) with the new university building, in Riverstone and the development in the canyons, the numbers have gone up,” he said. .

“When I first took over the program I was getting 60 to 80 calls, but over the last three or four years it’s averaged 160 to 170 calls per season.”

First Diver added that part of the increase is likely due to the public awareness campaign to also raise awareness of the city’s rattlesnake mitigation program.

Although many people in the community are terrified of cold-blooded animals, experts hope people who share a hometown with prairie rattlesnakes will educate themselves and work to preserve the resilient species.

“It’s very cool that we have this rattlesnake who somehow manages to make a living as far north as Canada,” said Snakes on a Plain co-owner Sheri Monk.

“I think we kind of owe it to the species to kind of protect it a bit and realize that it’s not here to get us, and that we can lend it a hand.”

Sheri and his wife Alyssa started their snake safety education and fencing business around the start of the pandemic to help protect people and their pets, as well as the snakes that inhabit parts of southern Alberta.

Monk lives in Medicine Hat and holds the same position as the Lethbridge Rattlesnake Wrangler.

First Diver has worked for around nine years as the town’s ‘rattlesnake guy’ and says he still has never been bitten, despite receiving rattlesnake venom in the one of his eyes last summer, causing him to lose almost all vision out of his right side.

Working with rattlesnakes is not a common job for someone living in Canada, but for First Diver, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I’ve been around snakes all my life. I grew up with pet snakes, constrictors and exotics, etc. in my adult life,” he said.

There have never been any reported fatalities from prairie rattlesnake bites in Alberta.

It is illegal to kill, possess or damage areas of rattlesnakes and there are significant charges and fines for tampering with the species.

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