Rattlesnake

With the heat come our slithering friends from the desert. This rattlesnake slithered into a yard recently. Officials warn residents to be cautious around the venomous creatures, and watch pets during summer months.

Hannah McLeod/Special to The Explorer

According the Tucson Herpetological Society, 15 species of rattlesnakes live in the Northwest region.

Commonly identified by the rattling sound they make with their tails, all species of rattlesnakes are venomous. However, according to the Arizona Poison Centers, fewer than 1 percent of rattlesnake bites result in human death.

Nonetheless, local authorities warn these venomous creatures are dangerous and should be avoided.

In the Arizona desert, rattlesnakes are most active from April to October. During the warmest months of the year they are most active at night, spending the hot days hiding in shaded places.

Living in the desert, there is no way to guarantee the avoidance of rattlesnakes and there is no known rattlesnake repellent. The desert is their home, too. During rattlesnake season, officials warn residents that it is common to find a rattlesnake in the yard, street or nearby wildlife areas.

In order to stay safe during rattlesnake season, it is recommended that residents wear shoes and boots when walking at night.

Officials say even when rattlesnakes are not coiled to attack they can still be dangerous. They can strike without coiling, and can bite when stepped on, or surprised.

Residents are also warned to avoid snakes that appear to be dead. Reflex strikes with injected venom can occur for several hours even after death.

In case of a rattlesnake bite, the most important thing to do is not to panic, said Adam Goldberg, spokesman for Northwest Fire District. Panicking causes an increased heart rate and blood pressure, which will only spread the venom more quickly.

The Tucson Herpetological Society recommends keeping yards free of rodents since they provide a primary source of food for rattlesnakes.

To remove rodents, it is recommended that any holes be filled. Rattlesnakes do not build their own dens, but use burrows built by other creatures.

The Northwest Fire District does not remove rattlesnakes unless screening questions determine that the snake poses an immediate threat.

Goldberg gave three parameters for snake removal. If the rattlesnake presents a public hazard at a school, library, sports park or other populated areas, firefighters will respond. If the snake is in a house, garage, yard or other enclosed area, firefighters will respond and move the rattlesnake to a nearby open area.

If the snake in question is in an open yard or other unfenced area, callers will be instructed to keep children and pets away from the area until the snake has moved away.

If it is determined that the snake is not an immediate threat, individuals can call on private companies to remove rattlesnakes for a fee.

Desert Wildlife Services offers immediate capture and removal as well as other rattlesnake prevention services.

Experts recommend the removal of rattlesnakes rather than killing them, for safety reasons.

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