SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) - Rattlesnakes are showing up closer to homes this summer and wildlife experts say it's all thanks to the recent fires that have plagued Utah.
In an effort to avoid the fires and scorching temperatures, the venomous snakes are slithering down and taking refuge anywhere they can, especially in the foothills and in backyards.
Rattlesnakes prefer to hide out during the day to avoid the sun and heat. According to Emily Merola, Head Reptile Keeper at Utah's Hogle Zoo, they prefer hanging out under rocks, brush, logs, and wood piles - basically anything that keeps them in the shade. The snakes prefer to come out during dusk when it's a little cooler, and Merola says that's when people need to be most careful. "If you're out at night hiking or doing anything outside, make sure you're not stomping through there with flip flops on. You might run into a few."
On that note, Merola says it's just simple common sense to not wear open-toed shoes. Adding to the list of don'ts, Merola advises people to avoid hiking alone and to stay on marked trails. "When people go walking through where they shouldn't be they might run into one or two stray rattlesnakes."
Recently, from Ogden all the way down to Provo, residents up and down the Wasatch front have reported seeing rattlesnakes in their backyards. One Utah County man in particular found a three foot-long rattlesnake on his deck. Rattlesnakes typically shy away from confrontation with people, but they will strike if they feel threatened. "Say you're walking on a trail and you hear a rattle, stop what you're doing, see if you can locate where the rattle's coming from and walk in the other direction. Don't walk toward the snake, and don't investigate. That's how most people get bit," says Merola.
If you do happen to get bit, get to a hospital for anti-venom treatment as quickly as possible and try to stay as still as possible to keep the venom from spreading to your heart. Anti-venom treatments usually run around three to four thousand dollars per vial. Merola advises against using tourniquets, cutting the bite open, or attempting to suck out the venom. "Never take it lightly, it is very serious," says Merola.
Rattlesnakes are a protected species in Utah. Under state law, it is illegal to harm them or capture them.