Utah (ABC4) — As winter melts away, rattlesnakes will emerge in Utah, and they can pose a substantial risk. Here are some tips to avoid conflict with rattlesnakes and stay safe.
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, there are seven types of rattlesnakes found in Utah that fall under five different species. There’s the Prairie rattlesnake, the Mojave rattlesnake, the Speckled rattlesnake, the Hopi rattlesnake, the Western rattlesnake, the Midget-Faded rattlesnake, and most commonly, the Great Basin Rattlesnake.
According to Wild Aware Utah, the venomous snakes in Utah have broad triangle-shaped heads, and vertical eye pupils, and most have rattles on their tails. Non-venomous snakes have longer snouts and round pupils. If you can’t identify if the snake is venomous from a distance, WAU said to leave it alone and treat it as if it were venomous.
Rattlesnakes are most active during the late spring and early summer months at dawn and at dusk. However, they can be encountered at any point, especially in the spring, DWR said.
“During the spring and early summer months, rattlesnakes are on the move looking for food, water and mates,” the DWR said.
According to the DWR, the most common places in Utah to encounter rattlesnakes are on rocky benches, high-elevation slopes, and dry canyons. You can encounter them, hiking, rock climbing, biking, or just walking around.
Tips from the Division of Wildlife Resources
How to avoid rattlesnake encounters:
- When you are out hiking, watch the trail ahead of you.
- Check carefully before stepping over rocks, reaching onto ledges, or sitting down on a rock or log.
- Keep your hands and feet where you can see them.
- Avoid reaching into dense brush or crevices before visually checking them to make sure they are clear.
- Never corner a rattlesnake, or get close enough for the bite to occur.
What to do if you encounter a rattlesnake:
- Remain calm and stay at least 10 feet away from the snake. If the snake is in the middle of a trail, step off the trail and go around it.
- Do not try to kill the snake, doing so is not only illegal, but it also greatly increases the risk the snake will bite you.
- Do not throw anything at the snake (rocks, sticks, etc.) Rattlesnakes may move toward you in an attempt to fee.
- Alert others of the snake’s location, and advise them to use caution and avoid getting close to the snake.
- Keep children and pets away.
- If you hear a rattle, try to locate where the sound is coming from before you react, so you don’t step closer to the snake.
- Never corner a rattlesnake, or get close enough for a bite to occur.
According to the DWR, a snake will only bite defensively if it feels threatened. “Any snake may respond aggressively if agitated,” Wild Aware Utah stated. DWR said rattlesnakes do not chase people and will stop aggressive behavior once you are far enough away.
How to help prevent rattlesnake encounters with dogs:
- Keep your dog on a leash, especially during late spring and early summer.
- Have your dog trained with rattlesnake aversion training.
- Check with emergency veterinary hospitals in your area to learn which locations keep antivenom in stock.
What to do if you or someone you are with is bitten by a rattlesnake:
- Remain calm and get to the hospital as fast as possible.
- Do not attempt to suck the venom from the wound (this can introduce bacteria from your mouth to the bite and increase the risk of infection.)
- Do not apply heat to the bite.
- Do not apply cold to the bite.
- Do not apply a tourniquet to the bite, as it may increase the risk of tissue damage.
“Native snakes are an important part of Utah’s ecosystem,” the DWR stated in a press release. Rattlesnakes help reduce diseases spread by rodents, and their dens can provide shelter for other snakes.