Keep in mind that snakes of many species are done hunkering down now that the weather is warmer, making human encounters more likely with ALL types of snakes. You might even see snakes in more northern areas where you’ve not seen them before. “It may have something to do with climate change,” says a wildlife ecologist. “There has been a lot of range expansions of a lot of animals and plants with climate change, and if that continues, they may end up moving north.”
To avoid accidental encounters with snakes, watch where you place your hands and feet when roaming fields and woodlands, especially in rocky areas. Most bites occur by accidentally stepping on or near a snake and startling it. Wear snake gaiters to protect your lower legs. Poisonous pit vipers such as copperheads and rattlesnakes have triangular heads, vertical pupils, and prominent heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils. These characteristics can be difficult to see from a distance, but don’t take a chance — keep your distance. If the snake is within five to six feet of you, make slow movements and move in the opposite direction of the snake. Though copperheads are more common and widespread than rattlesnakes, their bite is much less dangerous. That’s because copperheads are smaller, they deliver less venom, and their venom is weaker than rattlesnake venom. Generally, rattlesnakes are considered the most venomous and the most likely to cause death. Treat any snake bite seriously whether you know for sure what bit you or not! Keep calm and get to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.
If you are bitten by a snake, the Mayo Clinic advises:
• Call 911 immediately or get yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.
• While waiting for medical help, stay calm and position the body so that the bite is at or below heart level.
• Remove jewelry or tight clothing before swelling starts.
• Do NOT apply ice or a tourniquet on or near the bite.
• Do NOT cut the wound or attempt to suck out the venom.
• Do NOT drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed the body's absorption of venom.
Did you know that not all snakebites are equal? Some snakes deliver a bite with a small amount of venom and others can deliver a great deal. So-called dry bites contain no venom at all. If you are bitten, even if it doesn’t feel worse than a bee sting at the time, you won’t know how much or how little venom was injected, therefore, it’s imperative you get immediate medical attention. Don’t apply ice, don’t use a tourniquet or constricting band, and don’t attempt to suck out the poison. Constricting blood vessels near a bite can lead to amputation. According to a recent report, a person who suffers a bite from a venomous snake could wind up paying upward of $50,000 in medical bills due to extended hospitalization, treatment for tissue damage, and antivenin treatments. Get to an emergency room as quickly as possible to ensure the best possible outcome!
If you’re wondering how to deal with snakes you might find in your own backyard, keep in mind that nonpoisonous snakes are harmless. They eat mice, rats, and other pesky rodents you don’t want around. Having them near the house is a good thing. When disturbed, these harmless snakes usually just slither away. They prefer to avoid contact with humans. Because you never know what type of snake you might encounter, wear gloves when weeding ground cover around the house. If you know rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes are in the area, wear snake gaiters to protect your lower legs, and leather gloves to protect hands when working outdoors.
In general, rattlesnakes are most active from March through October. In the spring, they are active during daylight hours. As days become increasingly hot around early May, rattlesnakes become more active at night and spend the day in a spot of shade or a cool shelter. Don’t take a chance! Be vigilant and take precautions to be safe— whether that be in the desert or the woods.