By Cheri Sicard
Rattlesnake season is upon us once again, but the team from Trip Astute is here to help. In the video below they assembled 10 tips for rattlesnake safety and to help you avoid rattlesnakes altogether, along with what to do and how to survive should the worst ever happen and you get bit.
Before they get into rattlesnake safety tips, the video begins with things you should know about rattlesnakes.
- Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, meaning they hunt by sensing heat and use their tongues for a sense of smell.
- As they are cold-blooded animals, they are most often found in April through October.
- Rattlesnakes can be found throughout most of the U.S.
- Rattlesnake trivia: According to the video, the only states where rattlesnakes are NOT found are Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, and Maine.
- Rattlesnakes rattle when they feel threatened. This is a warning for you to stay away. However, rattlesnakes are not naturally aggressive.
- While you should always get treated with anti-venom if you are bit in order to be safe, know that not all rattlesnake bites are venomous.
- Rattlesnakes do NOT always rattle their tails, which is why it is always important to stay visually vigilant when hiking in rattlesnake territory.
About rattlesnake bites
According to the video, about 1/3 of all rattlesnake bites are “dry bites,” meaning they don’t contain any venom. This usually happens when a rattlesnake is startled and bites out of instinct. However, know that baby rattlesnakes can be more dangerous as they don’t have as much control over their venom.
What should you do if a rattlesnake bites you?
According to the video, as difficult as it might be, try to relax while someone gets in touch with emergency services. This is not just lip service. Relaxing will slow your heart rate so that not as much venom is pumped throughout your body. Likewise, also avoid hiking or other physical activities.
- Do not elevate the bite wound or use a tourniquet as both of these techniques can actually cause more harm when dealing with a venomous snakebite.
- In most cases, some sort of anti-venom treatment will be needed. You might even need to be airlifted for help. Not all hospitals will have anti-venom on hand, so do call for emergency help immediately so anti-venom can be located as soon as possible.
- Do not try to suck out the venom; this is old, outdated advice.
All that said, depending on the amount of venom, where the bite occurred, and your overall state of health and strength of immunity, many people can survive several days before getting treatment.
How to avoid encountering a rattlesnake and maximize rattlesnake safety:
- Stay on the trail when hiking. Rattlesnakes not only will be more visible on a wide trail, they will be less likely to be hanging out in trafficked areas.
- Don’t listen to music while hiking. If a rattlesnake rattles, you need to be able to hear it. Even without snakes, this is a good idea in order to always maximize situational awareness.
- Hike with others. Should the worst happen, one person can get help while the other stays immobile.
- Keep kids close by when on the trail and warn them about the danger of encountering rattlesnakes.
- Do not approach, provoke or attempt to catch rattlesnakes.
- Do check your campsite, as rattlesnakes will often seek heat during the night.
Lastly, the video advises to not let rattlesnakes ruin your love of the outdoors. Rattlesnakes are not looking to bite you and even should that happen, your odds of survival are very high.