“The number of reported bites usually hovers in the double digits through May, June and July and then jumps to about 30 in August and September,” said an employee at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “It’s about a bite a day during those months before tapering off in October and November.”
Yikes! A bite a day in just southern Arizona alone?! The Grand Canyon state is home to 13 species of rattlesnakes, with eight or nine species living in Southeastern Arizona, depending on how the region is defined, and on average, 150 to 160 rattlesnake bites are reported every year. Multiply those statistics by all the states where poisonous vipers live, and you know why you've got to be careful this summer!
Rattlesnakes typically come out of their winter dens in March or April, and return in November. They range far and wide — from deserts, canyons and forests to urban backyards. Some rattlers slither a mile or more from their dens to places where they spend the summer— many times in the same places where humans and dogs hike, camp, hunt and live. Some rattlesnake bites are so-called “dry bites” in which no venom is injected. Sometimes the dry-bite rate can be 20 percent. It all depends on the age of the snake, if it has recently eaten (and used its venom on the rodent it bit), and other factors.
“I’ve been a little bit paranoid just walking around the house now,” admits a home owner in Anaheim Hills, California who was hospitalized after she was bit in her own bathroom by a rattlesnake. Her neighbor’s Beagle was also bitten the week before by a baby rattlesnake. Both received anti-venom and are recovering. Fire officials say the appearance of rattlesnakes in Orange County is no rare occurrence. “The reason why we’re seeing more and more snake calls, and snake incidents, is because it’s so dry. It’s the fourth year of a serious drought, and it’s been so hot lately. These snakes are trying to find water.”
Rangers in Boulder County are warning hikers and cyclists to be on the lookout for snakes in the grass after a Wyoming resident who'd been visiting friends in Colorado was bitten on the shin by an adult snake that was about three feet long. The friends reportedly got off their bicycles and were crossing an open grassy area to go to a different trail when the woman was bitten. The victim was airlifted to a nearby hospital, treated with anti-venom, and was released.
"Contrary to many people's understanding, rattlesnakes do not deliberately harm people. They will only strike if threatened; otherwise, rattlesnakes will do everything possible to avoid a human encounter." Officials in Boulder caution people to watch where they step, particularly when in rocky or grassy open areas, and to be careful about what you wear. Especially this time of year the weather is beautiful and you want to wear shorts, but leaving one's legs bare and ankles exposed may not be wise for people who leave the traveled trails. Always keep your dogs on a short leash when hiking to minimize the opportunity for them to poke their nose where a prairie rattlesnake might be hiding.
Snake bite victims are generally not doing anything wrong. They are just in the wrong place at the wrong time— working in the yard or around a wood pile, or outside enjoying the summer— and nothing could have been done to prevent the bite. But if you are purposely going into known snake country to hike or hunt, the best prevention is to wear snake gaiters or snake proof boots.
If the worse happens, the best response to a bite is to go immediately to a medical facility for examination and treatment with anti-venom if needed. No cutting, no sucking, no tourniquets. Just get to a hospital. Other tips include not putting ice on the bite, and any limbs that are bit, whether it be on the arm or the leg, should be kept below the heart.