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western diamondback rattlesnake Snakes live in a wide variety of habitats including forests, swamps, grasslands, deserts and in both fresh and salt water. Some are active at night, others during the day. Snakes are predators and eat a wide variety of animals, including rodents, insects, birds' eggs and young birds. Snakes are cold-blooded and must move to a suitable surrounding environment to regulate their body temperature. They can't survive extreme summer heat for more than 10-20 minutes and are rarely found in the open. They hibernate in the winter and may also be inactive periodically during hot summer weather. Most snakes that you may encounter are not poisonous. Venomous snakes that are found in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes. Before venturing out, familiarize yourself with the snakes in the area where you plan to spend time.

How to avoid snake bites:

  • Leave snakes alone. Do not handle, tease or harass them. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet between you and the snake.
  • Stay on trails and watch where you place your hands and feet, especially when climbing or stepping over fences, large rocks and logs or when collecting firewood.
  • Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves.
  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.
  • Wear long pants and proper foot gear, especially at night.

Signs or symptoms from a snake bite may include:

  • smooth green snake A pair of puncture marks at the wound
  • Redness and swelling around the bite
  • Severe pain at the site of the bite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
  • Disturbed vision
  • Increased salivation and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs

How to treat snake bites:

  • Call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.
  • Keep the snake bite victim still, as movement helps the venom spread through the body.
  • Keep the injured body part motionless and just lower than heart level.
  • Keep the victim warm, calm and at rest. 
  • Do not allow the person to eat or drink anything.
  • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

Do NOT do any of the following:

  • Wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Apply a tourniquet.
  • Slash the wound with a knife.
  • Suck out the venom.
  • Apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
  • Drink alcohol as a painkiller.
  • Drink caffeinated beverages.

A close-up picture of a western diamondback rattlesnake Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes are common on some forests and may be observed during the warm months. Rattlesnakes are easily identified by their broad, diamond-shaped head, splotched markings that appear to be separated by lighter colored stripes which become smaller and narrower towards the paper-like noise-producing rattles.  They vary in color from tan to nearly black with light colored belly.

During the cold months, rattlesnakes conserve their energy in dens.  During the warm months, the snakes are attracted to warm and dry spots.  They usually find a shady spot during the hottest time of the day and venture out to hunt during cooler morning and evening periods.  They can swim and it's best to abandon the rock you are fishing from if a rattlesnake is swimming toward it. 

The rattling sound is a common warning to potential predators and it's wise to move away from the sound. Rattlesnakes should be treated with caution and avoided if seen or heard.