This easy-to-follow guide covers the myths and truths about rattlesnakes in Arizona. Including solid information about chances of running into them, what to do if you do come across one, dealing with a bite, and more.
MYTH: Arizona is covered in rattlesnakes.
TRUTH: Rattlesnakes do live in Arizona. However, they are spread out over a wide territory, preferring quiet spots, far from humans, whenever possible.
MYTH: If I hike in Arizona I will encounter a rattlesnake.
TRUTH: Hundreds of thousands of people enjoy hiking in Arizona every year without ever encountering a snake of any kind. However, because the possibility does exist, it is important to always hike smart*.
MYTH: Hikers should feel free to absentmindedly run down trails, walk through tall grass, and grab onto high ledges before looking.
TRUTH: Hikers should always *hike smart and be aware of their surroundings. Look closely before entering any crevices or grabbing onto high ledges. If you leave a trail to hike through tall grass or leaves, use a hiking pole or long stick to check the areas around you.
MYTH: Rattlesnakes are crazy active all year.
TRUTH: Snakes are big fans of clear skies, sunshine and 80-90° temperatures. They are most active in Spring and Fall, hibernate in Winter and move into shaded nitches or leaves to escape Summer’s blazing sun.
MYTH: I’ll hear a rattlesnake if I get near it.
TRUTH: A rattler will sound its alarm when threatened. However, if it’s groggy from too much sun, cold or hibernation (or simply doesn’t hear you coming) it may not make a sound.
MYTH: If I encounter a rattler, I should move it.
TRUTH: Don’t ever try to move a snake! The vast majority of bites occur when people attempt to move or provoke a snake. If you encounter a rattler move away, wait for it to exit, or provide a ten-foot girth and walk slowly around it.
MYTH: Rattlesnake bites are fatal.
TRUTH: Less than 1% of people bitten by a rattler die. However, a rattlesnake bite is very serious and requires professional treatment as quickly as possible.
MYTH: If bitten by a rattler, I should go all Indiana Jones and slice the wound, suck out the poison, create a tourniquet and self-treat the bite.
TRUTH: Leave the bite alone. Self-treating often leads to more damage. Try to keep the bitten area elevated, remove any constricting jewelry or clothing in the area, call 911, keep still or (if needed) move slowly to find help. Get to a treatment facility as quickly as possible. Expect severe pain and swelling.
MYTH: My dog will scare off a rattler.
TRUTH: Dogs are susceptible to rattlesnake bites too, and don’t always recognize the danger. Keep your dog on a leash and, if you take them hiking with you often, consider rattlesnake avoidance training them. (Rattlesnake Avoidance Training: Phoenix/Partners Dog School, Tucson/Arizona Rattlesnake Avoidance, Prescott/BK Birddogs)