Rattlesnake Encounters

Rattlesnakes are important members of the natural community in Eastern Oregon. They will not attack, but if disturbed or cornered, they will defend themselves. Reasonable watchfulness should be sufficient to avoid snakebite. Give them distance and respect.

Rattlesnakes should always be considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Although many times they may detect your presence and flee the area before you notice them, encounters may occur in developed campgrounds and day use areas as well as in the backcountry.

A rattlesnake bite is a serious injury and must have medical attention. Few people die from the bite but it can make a person very ill. Children especially need quick medical attention.

Avoiding Rattlesnake Bites

  • Avoiding rattlesnakes is your best defense against a bite. Watch where you step when hiking, whether you are on or off a trail.
  • Wear long, heavy pants and boots when in snake territory, day and night.
  • Don’t put your hands into anyplace where you can’t see. When walking in long grass, carry a long stick to scan the ground ahead of you and scare away any snakes in your path.
  • Rattlesnakes can swim. Don't pick up that "stick" floating in the water.
  • In the winter rattlesnakes stay in dens together. These can be caves, hollow logs, hollow tree stumps. They leave the den and become active in spring, summer, and fall.
  • If you see a snake, back away to at least six feet from the snake (they can strike a distance equal to their body length). If you can’t walk around the snake to continue on your way, stamp your feet until it moves away.
  • Keep dogs and horses under control.
  • Most rattlesnake bites occur when people get too close to a snake in an attempt to molest or kill the snake. There is no reason to kill a snake; just leave it alone and move on.
  • Rattlesnakes do not always rattle as a warning prior to striking, so don’t assume that if you didn’t hear a rattle, that it wasn’t a rattlesnake.

Before Hunting or Hiking in Rattlesnake Country

  • Know where the nearest hospital, sheriff, Forest Service Station or other help are located in relation to where you’ll be. Have good maps and a compass so you can get to help in a hurry if needed. Don't count on a mobile phone working in mountainous areas. Educate your children about rattlesnakes.
  • Don’t hunt or hike alone, and be sure people know where you’re going and when you plan to get back.

In Case of Rattlesnake Bite

  • Visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website for complete information on rattlesnake bites.

Do Not:

  • Apply ice or heat to the wound.
  • Apply a tourniquet.
  • Cut the wound or attempt to suck out venom in any way.
  • Give the victim anything to eat or drink, especially not alcohol or aspirin.


  • Get everyone in your group away from the snake so it doesn’t strike again.
  • Since the only type of poisonous snake in these parts is the rattlesnake, there is no need to kill the snake and bring it to the hospital for identification.
  • Decide the best and quickest way to get the victim to the nearest emergency room for evaluation and treatment. In some cases this may mean sending one person for help while another stays with the victim. In other cases, it may be faster for the victim to walk out or be carried out to the nearest road for help.
  • Remove watches, jewelry and any tight clothing from the limb where the bite is located; swelling is common.\
  • If you are more than an hour from an emergency room, wash the site of the bite gently with soap and water to decrease the chance of infection later.

Snakebite victims may develop symptoms that are caused by anxiety rather than the effect of venom. Victims may vomit, hyperventilate, faint or show other signs of panic. Give calm reassurance that they will get to help as soon as possible and that snakebites are rarely fatal. Have them breathe slowly and relax as much as possible. Once you get the victim to a hospital, he will be assessed and may be given antivenin to reverse the effects of the venom. In some cases, physicians may decide that antivenin is not necessary and may give supportive treatment only.

Safety Tips with Dogs

The good safety tip while hiking or camping with your dog is to have it under control on a leash. If you do go out hiking:

  • Stay on the path or trail.
  • Stay away from brush and rocks where snakes may be resting.
  • Keep night time walking to a minimum.
  • If you hear or see a snake control you pet until you know where it is at then move away slowly.

If your dog is bit:

  • Take note of the size, color, marking and possible rattler on the tail of the snake for identification later.
  • Note where the dog was bit, looking for fang marks.
  • Apply a compression bandage just above the wound.
  • Begin your trip to the animal hospital or veterinarian for treatment keeping the dog quiet as possible.

Other Websites on Snake Safety and Awareness

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife - Living with Snakes

The Pet Center - Snake Bites and Dogs