Spring and summer are usually when most people see snakes, therefore, you might think by the time Fall rolls around you won’t need to worry about snake encounters until next year. Not true. Snakes become sluggish anywhere below 60 degrees° F, so as long as warmer temps prevail, as it seems to be this year, depending on where you live, we all still need to be diligent and have a watchful eye when outside raking leaves, gathering firewood or hiking. A steady temperature drop is a signal for the snake to enter brumation (similar to hibernation), but that’s not happening yet— at least not in Arizona, Texas and Florida. There have been several very recent reports of encounters with rattlesnakes:
A professional snake wrangler called to remove three rattlesnakes from a home in Mesa, Arizona actually found a nest of 20 vipers lurking behind a water heater in the garage! Their venom contains proteolytic enzymes, which destroy proteins in tissues and muscles, as well as hemotoxins, which destroy blood vessels and blood cells. Bites can cause intense pain, as well as internal bleeding and severe swelling. Luckily the home-owner was not bitten.
In Haskell, Texas, a woman found something terrifying when she opened the door of an outside portable toilet— a Western diamond-backed rattlesnake! Even though this viper bites more humans than other rattlesnake, luckily the women saw it first and avoided a bite.
Unfortunately, a delivery driver in Palm City, Florida wasn’t so fortunate and now is in “very serious condition” after a rattlesnake bit her during a package delivery. The driver was dropping off a box at a residence when she was attacked by an Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. A local news reporter interviewed the trauma doctor who treated the victim. He gave this explanation as to what happens to a person once bitten by a venomous pit viper: “Pain spreads up the extremity and you get discoloration to the point where within the skin and muscle starts necrosing or dying off. And you’ll see the wound progress rapidly. The worst thing you can do, the doctor warns, is get excited or walk fast or run. Then, the blood circulates faster, and the venom gets distributed to your body faster.” Once at the hospital, a patient will be administered about 10 vials of antivenom. The long recovery process then begins. Each patient is different, but for those that require a skin graft, you could be in the hospital for a month and a half, and then go through extensive physical therapy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 people get bitten by venomous snakes each year, resulting in 8 to 15 deaths. Diamond-backed rattlesnakes are venomous vipers with a distinctive triangular-shaped head, and are found across the U.S. Southwest and Mexico. The reptiles are named after the characteristic keratin rattles at the end of their tails, which they vibrate to make a hissing noise when threatened. These snakes can grow to between four and six feet long, and live for up to 20 years on a diet of mice, rats, rabbits and ground-dwelling birds.
There’s no need to be fearful of snakes and miss out on nice Fall weather, leaf peeping and yard chores — just be prepared by wearing protective snake gaiters or snake boots. Be alert and diligent when outside this time of year, and of course during warmer months, too.