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Tips on how to stay safe in rattlesnake country

Safety tips when around rattlesnakes
Posted at 10:31 AM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 12:31:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY — With more reports of hikers and people walking their dogs coming in contact with rattlesnakes, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is offering tips on how to stay safe.

Five rattlesnake species live in Utah, the most common of which is the Great Basin rattlesnake.

This is the time of year when Utah rattlesnakes are on the move, looking for water and rodents after emerging from their dens following a long winter. They are most active during the summer at dawn and dusk. Snakes mainly eat rodents, birds and other reptiles.

Rocky, high-elevation slopes are the places in Utah where you are most likely to encounter rattlesnakes; however, a rattlesnake’s camouflage helps it to blend into its surroundings, so you may pass by a rattlesnake and never know it.

Snake bites are quite rare, and most people who are bitten by rattlesnakes are harassing or trying to illegally kill the snake. Like most animals, rattlesnakes fear humans and will do anything they can to avoid us.

“However, that changes if a snake thinks it’s threatened and there’s no way to escape,” DWR Native Species Coordinator Drew Dittmer said. “In that case, the snake will often strike to protect itself. Just don’t approach it. Give it plenty of space, and leave it alone. Respect the snake, and you will be safe.”

What to do if you encounter a rattlesnake

  • Remain calm and do not panic. Stay at least 5 feet from the snake. Make sure to give it plenty of space.
  • Do not try to kill the snake. Doing so is illegal and greatly increases the chance the snake will bite you.
  • Do not throw anything at the snake, like rocks or sticks. Rattlesnakes may respond to this by moving toward the person doing the throwing, rather than away from them.
  • Alert other people to the snake’s location. Advise them to use caution and to respect the snake. Keep children and pets away from the area.
  • Keep your dog on a leash when hiking or camping. Allowing your dog to roam around increases the chance the dog will find a snake and get bitten.
  • If you hear a rattle, don’t jump or panic. Try to locate where the sound is coming from before trying to move, so you don’t step closer to the snake or on top of it.

Keeping rattlesnakes out of your yard

Depending on where you live, you could find a snake in your yard. Aside from building a fence that rattlesnakes can’t penetrate, here are some other useful tips to help keep rattlesnakes out of your yard:

  • Reduce the number of places that provide snakes with shelter. Brush, wood, rock and junk piles are all things you should eliminate from your yard.
  • Control rodent populations. Bird feeders and water are two of the main items that draw rodents to yards, which in turn can attract snakes.
  • Avoid scaring away harmless snake species, such as gophersnakes. Having other snake species on or near your yard may deter rattlesnakes.