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Rattlesnake season: What to do if you find a rattlesnake

Elizabeth Medora ~ Staff~ 4/15/2015

NORTH VALLEY – Snake sightings are on the rise. While many snakes inhabiting the North Valley are harmless, dealing with the venomous ones, such as rattlesnakes, can be challenging. Wildlife experts agree that the best way to avoid getting bitten is to not try to move or kill a venomous snake on your own – call a professional to remove the snake safely.

Multiple snake removal services are available in the North Valley, including the Daisy Mountain Fire Department. Contact the fire department at (623) 465-7400 for more details on snake removal.

Cave Creek Regional Park Ranger Mark Paulat noted that over 75 percent of snakebites occur when residents attempt to deal with snakes themselves instead of calling someone for help.

“The thing to remember about animals is that they are not mean or aggressive,” Paulat explained. “They are, more or less, ‘defensive.’ Given a chance, they will retreat to safety. They are simply responding to what they perceive as a threat.”

Paulat listed ways to avoid run-ins with rattlesnakes.  

“Animals do not recognize your home or garden as such,” he noted. “They see it as an oasis in the desert. This means water, food, and shelter, usually in that order. Keep landscapes and gardens trimmed up and tidy. Irrigate only as much as needed. Keep the property tidy to reduce hiding places.”

Joe Allen of Allen Animal Control sent a photo of rattlesnake relocation that happened this month to The Foothills Focus. In the photo, he is holding the snake with snake tongs. He was called to a home near Cave Creek and Jomax Roads to relocate the over 6-foot Diamondback rattlesnake.

“The snake was at a customer’s home on their front porch,” Allen said. “The customer walked out, and it was less than a foot away from him.”

Allen noted that the snake had not rattled at the customer and that no one should count on hearing a rattlesnake since they don’t always issue a warning rattle.

Hikers may meet a snake while out in the desert. Paulat offered reminders of how to stay safe from snakes while out hiking.

“I tell folks to watch where they are walking while out on the trail,” Paulat said. “If you want to enjoy the scenery; STOP. Enjoy the scenery! Then watch where you are walking.  If you are paying attention, the animals are easy to avoid.”

Paulat also issued a reminder to keep dogs on leashes at all times while on walks and hikes.

“Without a leash, you cannot save your pet from its own curiosity,” he said. “Especially if it has wandered too far down the trail for you to see potential danger.”

Staying on the trail while hiking is also very important.

“Park rules state that you must stay on the designated trails,” Paulat noted. “This is not only to protect the natural resources, it is also to help keep you safe! How many times have we seen stories in the news of people getting lost or injured while out hiking?  Most of these emergencies occur ‘off-trail.’ There is no real first-aid for snakebite, so if you are off-trail, it could hinder your rescue and recovery.”

Paulat referred to snakebites as “very time-sensitive emergencies.” He recommended that hikers not hike alone, adding the reminder that cell phone coverage can’t always be relied on, especially in remote areas.

In a snakebite emergency, Paulat counseled to keep as calm as possible. 

“Don’t panic! Try to remain calm and get help a.s.a.p.,” Paulat emphasized.