The best possible prevention is being prepared and using good common sense, so let this information serve as that tool so you can have a great experience in the front/back country. This is simple and practical advice from me to you.
And as always, when you are out in the front/back country you are a guest, so please be respectful, leave no trace, and be safe, and of course enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer!
If you are looking for Snake Avoidance Training please refer to our other ARTICLE.
If you are looking for full trail etiquette skills and hiking considerations for you and your dog please refer to my READY, SET, HIKE! DVD.
Phone Number – 911 is always handy, but you can also add to your speed dial the local care facility near where you are hiking. If you want to learn more you can call the Snake Bite Poison Line, and speak with their public education department – 1-800-222-1222.
Be Aware – Snakes are everywhere in snake country, especially between the months of April and October. Just because you don’t see one around every corner, they are there.
Watch and Listen – Watch where you are placing your feet, listen for natures voices around you.
It is not advised to have headphones/ear buds in when out hiking or working on trails, you need to hear when natures is trying to tell you ‘stop’, which includes the hiss from a bull snake or the rattle of a rattle snake.
Step – Even if you have incredible physical prowess, and like launching over things, it is not advised in snake country. It is best to step on the log so you can look over the other side, same with a rock or boulder.
Let the Snake Pass – If you see a snake crossing the trail or coiled on the trail, either turn around, give a bit of distance, or wait with healthy distance. Do not poke the snake with a stick or toss rocks, or use any other objects, that is how people get bitten, and it’s kind of a jerk thing to do anyway.
Rattle snakes in the western US are shy, and if given a chance will avoid conflict, so let them.
Water – In dry climates like the western US, snakes like to be near water, riparian area, irrigation ditches, and ponds. Please be careful and watchful in the early morning and late afternoon if you are near a water source, that has logs and/or boulders , and tall grass around the edges.
Nap Time – Western US snakes like the rattle snake like to rest in the middle part of the day. Again, early morning and late afternoon/evening are the more active times.
Sharpie and Phone – Please carry a cell phone and black sharpie in your first aid kit. For a list of what we recommend for a first aid kit please refer to our ARTICLE.
So you or your hiking mate came too close, or accidentally came upon a rattlesnake and were bitten.
No – No first aid is better than performing bad first aid when it comes to snake bites. Please do not cut, burn, permanganate, salt, sucking with your mouth, mud, clay, leaves, or ice.
Kits – All snake bite kits are dangerous and should not be used. There is a false sense of security caring one of these kits, and can allow you to believe you will be okay in a risky environment.
Breathe – If you have been bitten, move away from the snake, sit down, and take some calming, relaxing breaths. The best first step is to calm yourself, and then make a plan to get to medical help.
Venom rapidly diffuses into your system, and this can drop your blood pressure, which can lead to fainting or at the very least, feeling super dizzy. So please sit and breathe.
Remove – If you are wearing jewelry, watches, or anything binding, please remove immediately. You could swell quickly or even have an allergic reaction, so remove anything that could be restrictive.
Don’t Wait – If you are bitten there will be symptoms immediately or soon thereafter, so after you sit down, call! Call 911, call your local hospital, tell them where you are, that you have been bitten, and your ETA to your car or where Emergency First Responders can find you.
Then take out your black sharpie and circle the area of the bite, and if you want you can put the time next to it. About every 15-30 minutes please circle again if the swelling worsens, and again add the time if you are inclined. Your doctor will thank you!
Stay or Go? – If help is coming please wait and relax while sitting down, stay hydrated. If help is not coming and you need to get to your car, please go, you don’t want to waste time. Stay on your phone to let people know where you are and how you are doing as you travel to safety.
I hope this helps in some way so that you can have fun out and about in nature while staying safe.