Spring makes me happy! The onset of warm weather stirs my wanderlust and strengthens my resolve to spend more time outdoors communing with nature. Living things are waking up after their short winter hiatus, and I almost feel the same way! I am elated that the Mexican Poppies are blooming, the Cactus Wrens are repairing their nests for a new generation of fledglings, the Desert Cottontail Rabbits are nibbling fresh greenery, and higher still on my list of seasonal delights is the emergence of reptiles from Mother Earth!
Almost everyone likes the flowers, the birds, and the bunnies, but few people share my affection for lizards, snakes, and turtles. I look forward to seeing snakes on the move, and even the fearful among us have to admit that a live rattlesnake sighting is always exciting and makes for great conversation!
Rattlesnakes are now rousing from their cold weather brumation period, and daytime sightings should be expected until the weather gets too hot. Later on, they will stay underground during the heat of the day and only come out at night. Reptiles in general like the same sort of weather that we do; if it’s nice enough outside for a picnic, it’s nice enough for a rattlesnake to venture out.
Expect an encounter when you are hiking, camping, fishing, riding, etc…They don’t always buzz, so keep your wits about you. You are after all, visiting nature as a witness to it’s wonder, and not only are snakes wonderful to see, but they are also important participants in the intricate web of life and death that we humans simplistically call the ecosystem. (Simplistically, and perhaps arrogantly too, as if we were not a part of it.)
With that in mind, please rein in your innate primal bloodlust and resist the urge to kill every snake you find. I know it is easy to justify the act of killing it, but considering how few people in America are actually bitten and/or die from snake bites, it makes more sense to kill every stray dog in the neighborhood, because injuries and fatalities from dog bites are statistically much higher.
Preparations for your foray into the wilds should include at least a hiking stick that can be used to probe the ground ahead of your steps, and to gently prod any sleeping rattlers off the trail. Tossing a few pebbles at a snake will often encourage it’s retreat, but occasionally that tactic can backfire if the animal is so easily frightened that it goes on the attack and decides that it is you who should surrender the right of way! Bear in mind that a snake forced to defend itself is a dangerous foe; most people are bitten when attempting to kill or otherwise harrass them.
Snakebite kits are useless. Snake venom is rapidly absorbed into the lymphatic system and you will not be able to make a beneficial difference by trying to suck it out. In fact, it’s just a waste of time when time is of the essence. In case of snakebite, stay calm and move away from the snake. Excess movement of the stricken limb will hasten the deleterious effects. Call for medical help immediately and treat for shock. You may be well advised to begin transporting the victim to the nearest medical facility yourself, but it is not a good idea to let the stricken person do the driving.
Snakes find their way into our yards and sometimes our houses too. While it may be impossible to snake proof your property, there are a few things you can do that may help minimize the risk: Trim your bushes, clean your yard, and cut your grass. Wear shoes and use flashlights to walk around outside from dusk to dawn. Never put your hands and feet where you cannot see them. Build a low block wall with an overhanging lip around your house. Seal and weatherstrip the doors to your home, leaving doors open is an invitation to all sorts of unwanted visitors. Snakes can often be forced to leave the area by aggressively spraying them with a water hose…Keep your distance!
I do safe and humane reptile removals for the community on a donation basis (to cover my gas expenses). They are captured and released into the nearest suitable habitat where they will probably never be seen again. Please keep an eye on the animal from a safe distance and don’t hurt it while I am enroute responding to your call. My website is: www. reptilist.com .
Many people wonder why I save snakes from people and visa versa. Without trying to sound preachy or too esoteric, I’ll tell you… I think the blood we spill darkens our souls and holds us down. So I avoid unneccessary killing, and consequently, I will help you to avoid it too. My creed says that we are supposed to love the unloveable, because anyone can love those who love them back. Taken to the next level, I suppose that applies as much to the rattlesnakes as it does to each other.