Summer Brings A Sharp Bite in Utah
As Utah is now well into spring, hikers may start to see one of the not-so-cute creatures of the state: rattlesnakes.
Spring and summer are the times when the creatures are out and about more. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says this shouldn’t deter anyone from enjoying the outdoors but there are some ways to be extra careful when out and about.
Snakes are an important part of the Utah ecosystem. There are five rattlesnake species in the state with the most common being the Great Basin rattlesnake. These snakes take care of rodents and help keep diseases down. Lone rattlesnakes generally have a large area they move around in called a “home range”.
The snakes are most active during the dawn and dusk hours but can be found at all hours of the day, especially in early spring when it's mating season. It’s most common for hikers and bikers to run into rattlesnakes on high-elevation slopes, rocky benches, and dry canyons since that’s where they tend to hang out. However, sometimes these snakes can be found in lower elevations and open areas.
With their camouflage capabilities, rattlesnakes can blend in just about anywhere so make sure to be vigilant during outdoor activities this time of year.
As these creatures are protected under Utah law, it's illegal to harass or kill them.
Rattlesnakes use their venom to catch prey so if you do run into a rattlesnake, it will only bite if it feels cornered or threatened. The DWR says that snake bites are rare but harassing or trying to illegally kill the snake greatly increases the chance.
What To Watch Out For:
- When hiking always check ahead of the trail.
- Check before stepping over rocks, grabbing onto ledges, and sitting on a log or rock.
- Keep your hands in sight and don’t reach into dense brush or crevices.
Encountering A Rattlesnake:
- Stay calm and be at least 10 feet away from the snake. If encountered on a trail, get off the trail and go around.
- Leave the snake alone. Don’t try to kill it or throw anything at it. It may move toward you while trying to get away.
- Tell others where the snake is and keep everyone well away. Especially kids and pets.
- If you hear it before you see it try to locate where it's coming from to avoid getting closer.
If you notice a rattlesnake in a problematic area like a park or playground report it to the DWR.
"Like most wild animals, rattlesnakes fear humans and will do anything they can to avoid us. If a snake is feeling threatened it may act in defense. The best course of action is to maintain a safe distance," DWR Native Herpetology Species Coordinator Megen Kepas said.
Keep Your Dogs Safe
To avoid any encounters between your furry pet and a rattlesnake on hikes make sure to keep them leashed at all times. There is rattlesnake aversion training which helps dogs learn to avoid them. Check with your local emergency vet to see if they carry antivenom since not all animal hospitals do. This way you can be prepared if you and your dog do run into a rattlesnake.
How To Keep Rattlesnakes Out of Your Yard
- Make sure there are no sheltered places for snakes to slither into. Get rid of brush, rock, wood and any junk piles where rattlesnakes can hide.
- Keep your wild rodent population down so snakes aren’t attracted to your yard for food. Bird feeders can attract rodents so eliminate those from your yard if possible.
- Get rid of crawl spaces like holes around buildings.
- Make sure there is no standing water since it can attract snakes especially during warmer months and droughts.
To learn more tips on rattlesnake safety visit https://www.wildawareutah.org/utah-wildlife-information/snakes/