• Warm weather in Arizona means rattlesnakes are waking up
  • How to stay safe outdoors
  • What to do if a rattlesnake bites someone

Last year, I was hiking up Brewery Gulch in Bisbee with my friend Beth. Her dog had run a little farther afield than she was comfortable with, so she turned around to call her back to us. As she called, she took small steps backward, hoping the higher ground would give her a better vantage point.

I was a little behind her as we were making our way up the incline, and I saw where her feet were landing.

Rattlesnakes are waking up across Arizona. What to Do
Beth almost stepped on a fat rattlesnake as it crossed her path on our hike. // Canva

"Beth, stop. Don't take another step," I said as firmly and seriously as possible without alarming her. Beth's feet paused mid-step, and it's a good thing she listened. One more step backward, and she would have landed on a fat diamondback crossing the path behind her.

She looked down. "Whoa," she breathed. "That was close." We watched the snake slither away, blissfully unaware that we almost got his attention in the worst possible way!

Rattlesnakes are waking up across Arizona. What to Do
Shouting for her dog, she didn't see the snake. // Canva

Rattlesnakes are Waking Up in Arizona: How to Stay Safe

The weather is finally warming up. Just beneath the surface, some of Arizona's most respected and feared residents are returning to life: venomous snakes.

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According to A Z Animals, Arizona has 40 distinct kinds of snakes, and 21 are venomous. As spring heats up, these snakes are becoming active once again.

Venomous Snakes in Arizona

Rattlesnakes are Arizona's most common venomous snakes, and the Mojave Rattlesnake has the most potent venom.

Rattlesnakes are waking up across Arizona. What to Do
Wear a sturdy pair of boots and long pants to avoid being impacted by a snakebite. // Canva

As Beth and I found out, these snakes don't go looking for a fight but will defend themselves if they're threatened. I shudder to think what would have happened if Beth had stepped on his head that day, which brings up a good point.

The risk of getting bitten lies in accidental encounters with rattlers. Stopping to sit on a rock or fallen tree, walking through dense brush, or just working in your yard, you could accidentally step into rattlesnake territory.

Rattlesnakes are waking up across Arizona. What to Do
Watch kids as they play outdoors. // Canva

Tips for Staying Safe from Rattlesnake Bites in Arizona

Here are the best ways to stay safe this spring and summer:

  • Always stay on designated trails when you're out hiking.
    • Snakes like to sun themselves on rocks or in open areas to warm up during the day.
    • Since they're well adapted to blend into the desert background, they can be hard to spot when straying off the path.
  • Wear appropriate attire when hiking or working outdoors.
    • Snake-proof boots and long pants provide a physical barrier against bites. If a rattler strikes, it's less likely to contact your skin.
  • Be vigilant.
    • Always keep an eye out.
    • Take care where you step or place your hands, especially when climbing or moving rocks or cleaning up debris.
    • Keep an eye on kids and animals, too.
  • Knowledge is power.
    • Learn to identify venomous snakes and their habitats.
    • There are many beneficial snakes, and knowing which ones to avoid is a handy tool!
  • Keep your yard tidy.
    • Don't create snake habitats in your yard. If you have piles of wood or debris, you're inviting rodents. Snakes are soon to follow for an easy snack.
    • Keep things clean, and desert creatures take up residence somewhere else. Like your neighbor's yard!
  • Use tools instead of your hands.
    • While cleaning things up around your property, use tools like shovels and rakes to create a bite barrier.
  • Stay calm and seek immediate medical attention.
    • If a snake bites you or someone with you, don't try to suck out the venom or make incisions around the bite area. This could put you in danger or make things worse for the bite victim. Call 911 instead.
Rattlesnakes are waking up across Arizona. What to Do
Watch where you step and stay on trails. // Canva

Snakes: Leave Them Alone!

Remember, snakes are an important part of Arizona's ecosystem. They help control rodents and contribute to the state's biodiversity. Plan ahead and give all snakes, especially rattlesnakes, a wide berth so they can keep doing their job.

YouTube User Trail Time has some advice on how to avoid rattlesnakes while hiking:

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