If it seems like snake season in Arizona is practically half the year, that’s because it is. Snakes can’t control their body temperature, so they are active during warm weather. In Arizona, this means snakes typically become active in April and stay out through October.
If it’s cold outside, snakes are cold too. Their muscles slow down and they lose speed. They can eat less during cool months because they’re not expelling as much energy. When they can warm up during hotter months, they’re primed for hunting, moving and eating. That’s why you’re most likely to see a snake in the warmer months from spring to fall. They’re most often seen in the mornings and evenings of summer days as the heat begins to wane.
What Types of Snakes Live in Arizona?
More than 50 different kinds of snakes frequent Arizona, including 13 types of rattlesnake.
There are so many rattlesnakes in Arizona that one, the Arizona ridge-nosed rattlesnake, is the official state reptile. Another, the Western Diamondback rattlesnake, served as inspiration for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team name.
Why are Rattlesnakes so Scary?
While many snakes have fangs, not all of them have venom to go along with their bite. Rattlesnakes do have venom, and their venom is extremely harmful. It destroys tissue to make it easier for the snake to eat and digest its prey.
When we are bitten by a rattlesnake, we require medical attention as quickly as possible before the venom can cause internal and external damage.
How Do Snakes Inject Venom with Their Bite?
Sometimes snakes have a dry bite, where no venom is injected into their prey. Other times venom is included. Rattlesnakes inject venom in a special way – they have hollow fangs that the venom flows through.
Other snakes have grooves in their teeth allowing venom to run from their gums down their fangs into the fresh wound.
How Can I Avoid Getting Bit by a Rattlesnake?
Know what’s around you — Just like when you’re driving, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Look before you step, wear shoes outside, and don’t walk in high-vegetation areas with low visibility to where you’re stepping.
Like to hike with headphones? Snake season is a good time to change that habit. Remember, rattlesnakes get their name from the rattle at the end of their tail. This is what they use to warn predators of their presence, so take heed and listen carefully.
Consider hiking with poles — Not only are quality hiking poles helpful for maintaining balance, they can also help clear areas of potential snake danger! The striking sound poles make when hitting the ground can serve as a warning to snakes in the area to move out of the way.
Avoid them — If you see a rattlesnake, or hear that unmistakable rattle from one’s tail, turn around and go on your way. Don’t get closer or try to take a selfie. And don’t try to kill it. Rattlesnakes want to see you about as much as you want to see them. You won’t risk a bite if you leave it alone. Odds are it will move off to somewhere safer after you’re gone.
Bring your phone — If something does happen, despite all the precautions you’ve taken, you’re going to want it to call for help.
What do I do if I’m Bitten by a Rattlesnake?
The most important thing to remember if you’re bitten by a rattlesnake is to stay calm. Do not try to suck out the venom or use a snake-bite kit, as that can make things worse. If you’re bitten by a rattlesnake, take these steps:
- Get to a hospital as soon as possible – this may mean calling 911 for help
- Stay as still as you can to avoid increasing your blood flow
- Remove any tight clothing or jewelry before you swell up
- Let the wound bleed out to release some of the venom
- Do not wash the wound – the venom left on your skin may help the medical team identify the correct antivenin to use
- Do not use a tourniquet or apply ice
- Do not raise the bitten area above your heart
Rattlesnake bites typically require medical attention within 30 minutes of the bite. The outlook for rattlesnake bites is good; however, leaving a bite untreated could lead to organ damage and may even result in death.
Rattlesnake bites are rare, but they do happen in Arizona. You can keep yourself safe by taking the proper precautions and understanding what to do if you or someone you’re with gets bit.