Each year as the weather warms, local fire departments receive hundreds of calls for snake removals. Rattlesnakes emerge from their dens in search of the warm rays of the sun, and they can be grumpy. They seek out warm areas like driveways, pool decks and sidewalks when they are cold, and cool places like garages and wood piles when they are hot. Snakes are not bad. In fact, snakes have an important role in the ecosystem (for one, they help keep the rodent population down). However, you should call the Fire Department immediately if a rattlesnake is inside your home or in your yard. If you or your family members or pets are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
It is important to remember that a rattlesnake or other pit viper that is seen in the desert or other natural habitat away from urban areas does not warrant a call for removal. The number one recommendation if you see a snake while out hiking is to simply leave it alone. Snake bites can result in serious injury, or death. Hikers should never be out alone, wear sturdy boots, and stay on well-used trails as much as possible. Avoid tall grass and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day. Keep your hands and feet out of areas you cannot see. Rattlesnakes can be several feet long and can strike about half their body length. Even baby rattlesnakes can possess dangerous venom as soon as they hatch.
Most snakes are not outwardly aggressive for no reason; they usually strike if they are startled. If you accidentally step too close or move a log or rock they call home and are struck, do not attempt to cut out the venom with a knife and do not try to suck out the venom either. This does not work, and can increase anxiety and create additional problems. Do not apply a tourniquet or use ice packs or heat packs. In other words, do not do what they do in the movies!
Instead, stay calm and call 9-1-1 immediately. It's the first and most crucial step to take. While you wait for emergency assistance to arrive, remove any watches, rings, or other articles of clothing or accessories that could constrict swelling. Immobilize the area of the bite and keep it lower than heart level. If possible, clean the bite area with soap and water and cover it with a clean compress or moist dressing. If you’re in a remote area without phone service, get yourself to the nearest medical facility as quickly as possible.
Of course, the easiest way to treat a snake bite is not to be bitten to begin with. Be alert of your surroundings and wear snake gaiters. When enjoying the great outdoors with your dog, never let him off the leash in areas with snake activity. Dogs are at increased risk of being bitten due to holding their nose to the ground while investigating the outdoors. Speak to your veterinarian about canine rattlesnake vaccines and what to do if your pet is bitten.
Be safe out there!