Rattlesnake Season


It’s rattlesnake season here in the West.  Snakes are cold-blooded and love warm surfaces like rocks or sunny trails when they are cold, and dark and shady places when they are hot.  At night they curl up in the strangest locales – in coiled-up garden hoses, under the edge of pool covers, and now according to an Arizona fire department, inside foam pool noodles.

Rattlesnakes won’t hurt you unless you corner them. That’s why it’s never a good idea to form a circle around a snake. You need to give it a way out. When rock climbing, always look where you are going to put your hands before you put them there.

I’ve never been bitten by a rattlesnake but have had some close encounters. Once, while riding a bicycle in Yosemite, I drove past one crossing the dirt trail I was riding on. I called back to my bike mate, “Rattlesnake!” He didn’t hear me and rode right over it. He was a lucky guy that day that the snake didn’t bite him.

Another time at Girl Scout Day Camp, I saved a group of little boys (sons of camp leaders) from a rattlesnake. One boy said, “Look at that big black snake!” It was under a log the boys were walking on. Baby rattlers are black, not brown. When the boy was told it was a rattlesnake, he started to cry.

“Hey,” I said, “you should be proud! Out of all these kids at camp, you’re the one that found the rattle snake! How cool is that?”

The boy stopped crying. The camp maintenance man came with his burlap bag and grabber pole, picked up the snake, bagged it, and then put it in the freezer to slow down its heart rate until he could deliver later that day to his buddy who wanted it for a pet. The Girl Scouts would have preferred that he move it to another part of camp, but at least he didn’t kill it.

A friend’s husband got bitten by a baby rattler when he was opening up the electric pool cover. The cover was partway stuck, and he reached his hand into a dark space under the cover and got bitten. He had to go to the ER since babies can’t control their venom and use too much of it.

A neighbor went out to his garage to get his coiled up garden hose but was smart enough to turn the light on first. That’s when he found the coiled-up snake.

Dogs are more likely to die from a snake bite than a person is. That’s because a dog can’t talk and tell you if it’s been bitten. It is not advisable to send a dog after a rattlesnake. The dog will lose.

Many brown snakes can be mistaken for rattlesnakes. If you see a diamond pattern on the skin, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assume it is a rattler. They don’t always rattle their tails, and if they do, grab you kids’ hands and back away slowly. The snake is looking for a way out.

Give it to him.

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