The eastern shores of Georgian Bay are a destination for thousands of cottagers over the long weekend, but an increase in the number of rattlesnake attacks is a raising concern.

So far this summer eight people have been bitten by rattlesnakes around Georgian Bay, seven of those had to be treated in hospital with anti-venom serum.

Wildlife expert Glenda Clayton says are keeping a close eye on their activity and says Massasauga Rattlesnakes like to hide under rocks in sunny locations and hunt in long grasses. She’s concerned that the combination of active snakes, warm weather and long weekend crowds will result in some close encounters.

“They will be on the move because it's going to be 20 C, a perfect night to be a snake. They’re out looking for a mate or looking for food because mice will be active in the evening hours as well,” says Clayton.

Nobody has died from being bitten by a Massasauga Rattlesnake in recent history, but it's crucial to seek medical attention immediately after a bite, even if the venom is not causing symptoms.

The West Parry Sound Health Centre manages the supply of anti-venom serum for hospitals in Ontario. Jim Hanna says the serum is sent to hospitals where rattlesnake bites are most likely.

“Two were treated in Midland and one Grey-Bruce health system so all around Georgian Bay the rest of those bites took place on islands or on the mainland, but all of the bites so far this year have been around the Georgian Bay population of Massasauga Rattlesnakes,” says Hanna.

Despite the snake’s big reputation as the provinces only venomous snake, they are quite small; no more than a meter in length. Clayton says the best defence is to avoid being bitten in the first place by taking some basic precautions.

“Number one put on a pair of shoes, especially if you are walking where you can't see very well. Number two, take a flash light at night. Number three, keep the path clear so you have good visibility around your property. “

It's estimated that there are less than 32,000 rattlesnakes in all of Ontario; most reside on the Bruce Peninsula and around eastern Georgian Bay where they are protected as a threatened species.