Kayla S. Samoy, The Republic | azcentral.com 12:01 p.m. MST February 13, 2016
8 things you should never do around a rattlesnake.
Being aware of your surroundings is one of the best ways to stay safe during rattlesnake season.
It’s only February, but high temperatures in Arizona are expected to stay in the 80s well into next week. And with this early spring warming trend comes an annual warning: Beware the rattlesnake.
There are two Poison and Drug Information Centers in Arizona, one at the University of Arizona and one at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix. Between the two, the centers treat an average 250-300 snake bite victimes every year. Don’t want to be a statistic? Minimize your chances by NOT doing any of the things below.
- Do not wear flip-flops.
Especially critical when you’re out for a walk or hiking. Closed-toe shoes are a much better bet and safer than sandals. Above the ankle hiking boots and socks are even better – a lot of snake bites occur in the ankle area. And when you’re walking always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t look straight down. Look ahead and to the side — before you step.
“Snakes are always around,” said Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “But with nicer weather, snakes and humans are becoming more active in the same environments so we interact with them more.”
This can mean getting bitten while gardening, pulling weeds around your yard, walking to the mailbox or walking your dog.
- Do not put your hands where your eyes can’t see.
In true Arizona fashion, the best example here is the golfing one. Don’t go sticking your hand in a bush or a shrub for a wayward golf ball, as these areas are the perfect places for snakes to hang out. You don’t want to startle one. Same theory applies if you’re hiking, or rock climbing or gardening for that matter. Crevices in rocks, wood piles and deep grass are really good snake hiding places. Oh – and don’t reach out and grab floating “sticks” and “branches” if you’re in a creek or river. Rattlesnakes can swim!
- Do not walk without a flashlight at night.
Reptiles in Arizona are most active during the months of April through October, and during the hottest months they’re most active at night. If it’s dusk or dark outside, use a flashlight or headlamp to illuminate your path so you don’t accidentally step on a snake.
- Do not keep rodents around your property.
Rodents are a primary source of food for rattlesnakes and snakes will go where there is a good supply of them. Be sure to get rid of any rodents in your yard. Be careful with bird feeders too because those can attract rodents and snakes will be drawn to the smell of birds and rodents.
- Do not make sudden movements near a snake.
If you hear the warning rattle, it is just that – the snake is telling you not to come any closer. Stay calm and give it a wide berth. Move away from the rattler with slow, non-threatening, non-sudden movements.
As you might imagine, snakes don’t like it when you mess with them – intentionally or otherwise.
“There’s a perception that most people are bit when they’ve been playing with or bothering a snake, but what we see more and more is that it’s just people in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Boesen said.
- Do not underestimate a baby rattlesnake.
Two problems here. First, their size makes them harder to detect, and thus, more difficult to avoid. Second, younger rattlesnakes are born without a traditional rattle, so you can’t rely on the noise as a warning. Don’t assume that a snake that doesn’t rattle isn’t dangerous. There is no such thing as a cute rattlesnake. Baby rattlesnake venom is just as deadly as older snakes.
- Do not try to kill a rattlesnake
If you find one slithering around your property, don’t try to kill it yourself. One of our readers asked if they could pepper spray it. As azcentral columnist Clay Thompson noted, “If you can can get close enough to make a direct hit with the pepper spray you’re going to be close enough to get bit.” Just don’t do it. Leave that to the professionals.
- Do not handle snakes even if they appear dead.
Some rattlesnakes can still strike and inject you with venom when they’re dead. This is true even if the snake’s head is cut off. Don’t take a selfie or reach your hand out to touch the thing. Again. Common sense here. Being bitten can cause severe injury and long-term complications.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported more than 750 rattlesnake bites in 2014 with 3 resulting in deaths.
If you’re bitten by a rattlesnake
DO stay calm.
DO call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
DO remove any jewelry or tight clothing from the bitten area/limb right away (you’ll want it off before the wound and surrounding tissue starts swelling).
Do NOT cut the bite site, or create any kind of tourniquet around the wound.
Do NOT put ice on the bite.
Do NOT try to suck the venom from the wound.
Do NOT treat the site with rubbing alcohol or medication.
Do NOT wait for swelling, pain or other common symptoms to manifest themselves before going to the emergency room.
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