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What to do if you encounter a venomous snake

rattlesnake An estimated 80% to 90% of rattlesnake bites happen when homeowners try to deal with snakes on their own -- without proper training.

Easter eggs might not be the only things hiding in your backyard. If your kids are out searching for hidden treasures or just playing in the yard, be aware, rattlesnakes often like the same hiding spots.

At the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary near 78th Street and Dynamite Boulevard in north Scottsdale, venom expert Joe Hymes says it's always snake season in Arizona. But with warming temperatures, this is the time of year they receive the most calls about snakes. "Most of the time, they are just soaking up the sun, but if you give them space, they will leave you alone," he tells us.

Snakes' hiding spots will consist of cool and damp spaces. "Anywhere [snakes] will not feel overly exposed," he explains. "They'll hide under things -- bushes, flower pots, raised sheds in the backyard, behind A/C units, behind pool pumps where moisture might condense. Those are all prime rattlesnake hiding spots."

The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary is a nonprofit rehab and rescue center, a surrender facility, and a summer camp. They also offer educational programs for kids and adults, preaching safety tips to avoid unnecessary incidents, which almost always lead to a painful hospital visit. "You absolutely do not want to touch a snake, especially children."

Hymes says if you happen to encounter a snake, walk away and don't try to move it yourself. An estimated 80% to 90% of rattlesnake bites happen when homeowners try to deal with snakes on their own -- without proper training.

He suggests you give them at least 3 feet of space. If you'd like the snake removed and don't mind paying a small fee, you can call their rattlesnake removal hotline number at 602-550-1090. "We will come out and dispatch volunteers to safely and humanely catch the snake and relocate it back out to the desert -- away from your home."

What to do if bitten by a rattlesnake:

  • Call 911 and stay calm.
  • Keep the bitten area still.
  • Remove any jewelry or constricting items near the affected area in case of swelling.
  • Elevate the extremity that's bitten.

Do NOT:

  • Drive yourself to the hospital.
  • Use ice to cool the bite. Blood flow is best, and an ice pack will slow it down.
  • Cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom. This could cause bacteria to transfer.
  • Use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and could cause the patient to lose a limb.
  • Bring the snake or a photo of the snake with you to the hospital. All rattlesnake bites are treated with the same antivenom, so identification of the snake is not necessary.
  • While non-venomous snakes far outnumber their venous brethren, at least 13 species of rattlesnakes and a few other kinds of venomous reptiles, like the Gila monster, live in Arizona. The Scottsdale Fire Department tweeted Sunday that it had to relocate one of those guys from a north Scottsdale home.


The Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary also wants people to understand that killing a snake or other reptile isn't recommended. "Wildlife plays an important role in our world," says Russ Johnson, the president of PHS. "We can coexist if we understand them better."

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Saturday, 13 July 2024

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