Camping & Survival

Preppers, Hunters, and Hikers Beware of Venomous Snakes!

Wild Aware Utah is a great resource for respecting and dealing with snakes. Like most things, if you know what to look for and where you can avoid danger. In other cases you may find yourself in a situation that is more perilous, but a cool head and a plan of action will keep you in the clear, but again, you have to know what you are looking for and where.

Some things just say DON'T PLAY WITH ME
Some things just say DON’T PLAY WITH ME
Regardless of where you live checking out Wild Aware’s resource guide on snakes is great preparation for the time in the great outdoors.

Coming across a rattlesnake in the wild—or in your yard—can be a frightening experience.

But it doesn’t have to be. If you respect the snake and give it some space, there’s almost no chance your encounter with it will be negative. And, if you can find a safe place to watch the snake, you’ll observe one of the most unique critters in the world.

“Rattlesnakes are a very important part of Utah’s ecosystem,” says Krissy Wilson, native aquatic species coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

“They control pests,” she says, “such as mice and voles. They’re fascinating creatures.” Tips to stay safe in rattlesnake country are available from Wild Aware Utah. You can get the free tips at www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information.

Southwest Partners also provides free rattlesnake safety information. A copy of the organization’s “Living with Venomous Reptiles” brochure is available at http://bit.ly/1Fd8THh.

Staying Safe

Wilson says summer is the time of year when most rattlesnake encounters happen in Utah.

Eight rattlesnake subspecies live in Utah. The most common is the Great Basin rattlesnake. The Great Basin ‘rattler’ is found across the state.

Rocky, talus slopes are the places in Utah where you’ll most likely encounter rattlesnakes. In fact, Wilson says there’s a good chance you’ve been close to a snake while hiking and never knew it. “A snake’s camouflage allows it to blend into its surroundings,” she says. “They’re tough to see.” When you encounter a rattlesnake, the way you act will likely determine what happens next. Like most animals, rattlesnakes fear humans. “They’ll usually do everything they can to avoid us,” Wilson says.

Respecting the snake, and giving it plenty of space, are the keys to avoiding problems. One thing you don’t want to do is approach the snake.

“I can’t overemphasize how important it is to give snakes space, to watch where you step, to watch where you place your hands when you sit down, and above all, to resist the urge to harass or kill a snake,” she says.

Wilson also reminds you that rattlesnakes are fully protected by Utah law; it’s illegal to harass or kill one.

Hiking Tips

If you encounter a rattlesnake while hiking, Wilson recommends the following: Tip 1 – Remain calm. Do not panic.

Tip 2 – Stay at least five feet from the snake. Give the rattlesnake plenty of space.

Tip 3 – Do not try to kill the snake. Doing so is illegal and greatly increases the chance the snake will bite you. Wilson says most venomous bites happen when untrained people try to kill or harass a snake. “Usually, the snake is simply moving through the area, sunning itself or looking for a place to hide,” she says. “If you leave the snake alone, it will leave you alone.” Tip 4 – Alert people to the snake’s location. Advise them to use caution and to respect the snake. Keep children and pets away.

Keeping Snakes Out of Your Yard

Rocky, talus slopes aren’t the only place in Utah where you might encounter a rattlesnake. Depending on where you live, you could find a snake in your yard.

Aside from building a fence that rattlesnakes can’t penetrate, Wilson says the following are the best ways to keep rattlesnakes out of your yard: Tip 1 – Reduce the number of places that provide snakes with shelter. Brush, wood, rock and junk piles are all items you should get rid of.

Tip 2 – Control rodent populations. Bird feeders and water are two of the main items that draw rodents to yards.

Tip 3 – Avoid scaring away harmless snake species, such as gopher snakes. Having other snake species on or near your yard may deter rattlesnakes from wandering through.

Tip 4 – Wilson says she’s heard of people using “snake repellents.” But she isn’t aware of any scientific testing that shows these products are effective.

Do you have a tip for snakes or encounters with venomous reptiles? Share them in the comment section.

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Comments (27)

  1. They’ve never been listed under the Endangered Species Act. Before they passed the act nearly 50 years ago, nobody cared.

    Eastern Diamondbacks have suffered allegedly large drops in population, recently. Even they aren’t endangered.

    Besides, you were in the SW, weren’t you?

    1. This conversation has taken a ‘silly’ turn. If you don’t like my replies, go to Big Bend State Park and find the Game Warden I spoke to, if he hasn’t retired. I only know that what was said to me at the time was true. Whether it is true now, or not is not relevant. Species come and go from the ‘endangered’ list, so goodbye, have a good life.

    2. Several years ago, we reported to a Park Ranger in Big Bend State Park about the siting of a pair of gray wolves near Contrabando. He laughed at us, telling us there was no such thing in the area. He was rude and uninformed. It has now been acknowledged that several pairs of grays are common in the area although I would bet this guy is still denying it. Just because they have a badge, does not make them an authority.

    3. Correct me If I’m Wrong, but was that Covered as Part of the SHARE (Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement) Act of 2015…

  2. Typical thought process of many humans, if something makes you uncomfortable, kill it. It doesn’t matter if it is a rattle snake or a garden snake, just kill it because it scares you. The world is in a sad state with no respect for anything but themselves.

    1. Self preservation is one of the highest instincts. Ever since a serpent tempted Eve, there has been a hatred by man of all things that crawl on the ground. True, there are far more ‘good’ snakes than poisonous,(bad), but there is still that hatred of snakes in our DNA. You see a snake, you don’t stop to examine it to determine if it is good or bad you react out of instinct, (self preservation.)

  3. Diamondback Rattlesnakes are listed as “Least concerned” of becoming threatened in conservation status.

    Your gamewarden was either BSing you or seriously deluded. I vote for the former.

    10 years in jail for killing a rattlesnake? You believed that? Texas must have empty jails on every corner for that to be believable…

    1. At the time, Western Diamond Back Rattlesnakes were a protected species and according to the powers that were, in danger of becoming extinct. This was a very long time ago, this may have changed. At the
      time, their meat was considered a gourmet delicacy at the time and their skins were prized for belts and hat bands. Hundreds were slaughtered every year for those two reasons. There are still ‘rattlesnake hunts’ in parts of Oklahoma, but these hunts are organized now so that the snakes can be ‘milked’ for their venom in order to make anti-venom and no longer for their meat and skins. Too, as a Federally Protect Species, not just Texas protected, the rap was Federal, not just state. As for, if I believed the 10 yrs., or not, I really didn’t care to spend anytime in jail, whether 10 yrs or 10 minutes. And Texas has a lot of little towns, with a lot of little jails, so there could well be empty jails on every corner.

  4. If the snake zaps you for mistakenly blundering into its hiding spot in your yard, then you must be at fault for not “leaving it alone”. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that is their hunting tactic; to take a position and wait for prey to blunder too close. From what I’ve seen with pet snakes, they can live on about one good-size rodent per month. Not my idea of efficient rodent control. I thankfully don’t have venomous snakes where I live, but I have plenty of harmless snakes around, and they get big because it’s a rural area, but they don’t even put a dent in the rodent problem. I have to put poison bait in all my sheds, and the only thing that ever controlled moles/voles for me is my dogs. If I did have venomous snakes, then when it comes to my yard I’d treat them like any other pest: kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. Making rattlers welcome in your yard because you’re hoping they’ll control rodents is a fool’s bargain.

    1. snakes will HELP control rodents, along with owls and foxes and coyotes and bobcats. screw up the balance and oh look, it will be out of balance. kids and every other person is far more likely to be killed or injured by improperly stored or managed firearms than any snake ever. check he statistics, can’t argue with facts. or actually you can, but it just sounds silly and defeats our position regards responsible firearms ownership, plays right into the hands of those who would like to ban guns

  5. “A Case of the Biter Bit”! A “Little Bit” Overkill in that Safety Issue. But WELL Worth it If you’re Safety Conscious, Chainsaw Chaps or Motorcycle Denim Pants which use Ballistic Kevlar or EVEN Kevlar Hockey Socks (Thigh High Preferably)…

  6. “Wilson says most venomous bites happen when untrained people try to kill or harass a snake.” Where on earth did she hear that? It is a total fabrication and makes suspect the entire content of the article. Over 80% of all venomous snake bites are because the snake has been surprised by an unwitting passer-by. CTD, check your articles before you publish them for being factual.

    1. Perhaps you’ll notice the article was picked up from the state Department of Natural Resources. If you would like to refute it, please cite your sources.~ Dave Dolbee

    2. National Health Service, for one! They state that less than 20% of all snake bites are caused by provocation. The vast majority are accidental encounters. The NHS has done studies on the causes of snake bites… something I would almost guarantee has not been done by the Utah Dept of Natural Resources. Citing fundamentally political sources and bureaucrats as factual information is always suspect, especially to those who have suffered or had someone suffer from these debilitating injuries. I realize that your entire article is almost a direct quotation, I assume with permission, of Wilson’s “Wildlife news” article, “Rattlesnake safety tips” but such statements should be verified before publication.

    3. Could not agree more with you. I live in AZ out in a new community surrounded by desert and with a golf course running through it. In the past I have had a few encounters, luckily I spotted the snake before it spotted me. 2 of the 3 were small and therefor no audible rattle. I have snake proofed my yard as best possible but still we are very wary when moving around. Had a friend who got bite by a Mohave rattler a few years back it was hid on the other side of a corner and as soon as he got near wham. Was not pleasant at all for him.

  7. I live with snakes all around, plenty of rattlesnakes and have never ever had any sort of issue. they are long-lived and territorial so there are some I have known for many years, can now recognize their unique markings. very peaceful and interesting, I can walk by, even step over, all calm. and they EAT RATS, which are a real problem! rats chew wires and fuel lines, many many more problems from rats than snakes. really, they are purely defensive and I’d reckon someone needs to be a real fool to get bit or kill one.

  8. Glad to see the article emphasized leaving the snakes alone, disappointed by the ignorance displayed in the comments by folks that would just kill these animals on sight. If you took some time to simply observe them and let them do their thing you will quickly learn they interesting part of nature that deserves our respect. If you leave them alone they will never harm you, you are more likely to be killed by lightning in the US than a snake.

  9. I live in Alabama currently, but am moving to Maine due to too much humidity. There snakes and then there are snakes: If it’s a King Snake, a Black snake or even a Rat snake, I’ll carefully use a stick to pick it up and put it into an adjacent field away from my house. But if it is a rattlesnake , either timber or pygnmy or a cottonmouth or a water moccasin, it’s gonna be a dead snake as soon as I can retrieve my snake gun. It’s a Russian 26mm flare gun with an eight inch piece of 3/4 black pipe fastened inside the barrel and notched to make the extracter function. This allows me to utilize a 12 gauge low recoil number 7 1/2 bird shot shell. It does the job very well.

  10. Once lived in rural Oklahoma. Few Rattlers, but many Copperheads. Was always running across them in my yard. My go-to solution was to carry ‘rat shot’ in my pistol. Baring that, No.7 shot from my .20 gauge always eliminated the threat. As for ‘snake repellent’, scattering moth balls around the skirts of my mobile home, kept them from getting under there and posing a threat to either me of my dog.

  11. “Do not kill the snake. Killing rattlesnakes is illegal in Utah.” Tough schpitt. Stupid article. My kids and my dogs spend time in the yard. The rattlesnake belongs stretched and nailed on the wall of the barn.

    1. Rattle snake skins also make very fine hat bands and belts. Just don’t use the fangs for a buckle on your belt. OUCH!!!

    2. Bob, like everything else regarding real estate, it’s all about Location, Location, Location! In my yard, venomous snakes have a VERY short life expectancy! A little girl in my neighborhood was bitten by a copperhead a few years back and was in a very bad way for several months. When it comes to pit vipers, the entire neighborhood practices the 3 S’s.

    3. “If you encounter a rattlesnake while hiking, Wilson recommends the following:”

      I guess you missed this part. I’d be careful about throwing words like “stupid” around.

    4. Where I I live is too high and too cold for rattlesnakes. They reside mostly on the east side of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. I don’t take my dog over there, period. Risking getting dumped off my horse on top of a snake is bad enough. How do they react to being run over by an ATV, does anyone know?

      M1911A1 with ONE CCI shot shell in the chamber (subsequently shot shell rounds may or may not feed depending on the 1911) or Taurus Judge with .410 when I am in snake country. I always carry #4 buck shot in a 12 ga. in bear country, which is anywhere outside my house on the west side of the continental divide.

      While gratuitously killing animals could be construed ‘game wasting,’ rattlesnakes are not game animals; you don’t need a license and there is no season for hunting rattlesnakes. They are nuisances. While I don’t shoot every snake I see, or even ever rattlesnakes, it is I not illegal to shoot a nuisance animal.

      Can you imagine a game warden comining into court and arguing that you didn’t feel in imminent danger of great bodily harm and/or fear of death? Or a judge or a jury not agreeing with you. Even if the rattlesnake were endangered, if it’s the snake or me, the snake loses.

      Generally, though, my attitude towards rattlesnakes/any snake in low country is the same as bears—avoid as much as possible.

    5. FNB. I can ‘actually’ see where a Game Warden would go to court about the killing of a rattlesnake. Was in Big Bend State Park in SW Texas many years ago. Like some, I carried’ illegally’ as then there were no CCWs anywhere. In my carry weapon, a S&W 25-5, .45 LC, every other round was ‘rat shot.’ A Game Ranger at Big Bend noticed my weapon, though it was well concealed. It wasn’t the fact that I was carrying that bothered him, it was the thought that I might come a cross a Diamond Back Rattlesnake and kill it. Diamond Backs were/are a protected species in Texas. His advise was that I leave my pistol in my car so that I wouldn’t be tempted to ‘even’ shoot a rattlesnake. Then it was a min. 10 yrs. for killing one. My reply to his advise seem to upset him. I asked if I couldn’t kill one if it struck at me. Seems that I couldn’t;
      Diamond Backs were an endangered species, people on the other-hand weren’t.

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