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SNAKES on the Trail

Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 187
It's that time of year, again...T-shirt weather! In the Valley and surrounding areas, T-shirt weather is synonymous with SNAKES. If the temps are comfortable enough for you to be outside in a short-sleeved t-shirt, then it's SNAKE SEASON!

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalis atrox)

As a general rule (and rules are generally broken!)...

...In milder weather, when the morning and evening temperatures are cooler, snakes are more likely to make an appearance during the warmest times of the day and may be seen basking on rocks, in the middle of a trail and on the road.

...In warmer weather, when the morning and evening temperatures are moderate by comparison, snakes are more likely to be active from evening to early morning.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis cerberus)

Already this year there have been snake encounters reported on the Peralta, Bluff Springs, Dreamy Draw and Go John Trails among others. With so many people and personalities on the trails this season, it's important that you know how to respond to snake and wildlife encounters and are able to relay this information to others.

If you encounter a snake on the trail...

* DO NOT TOUCH, handle, move, provoke, throw rocks at or kill the snake in any way.
* DO NOT PANIC Be patient and allow the snake time to pass and seek refuge.

If you hear a "rattle" but don't see the snake...

* DO NOT MOVE! FREEZE until you visually locate the snake! Then slowly move away.

Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii)

IF BITTEN BY A SNAKE, transport the victim to the nearest emergency medical facility or contact the ARIZONA POISON CONTROL CENTER at 1-800-222-1222.

Learn to identify the many VENOMOUS SNAKES calling Arizona home by visiting the link below:


Also, see SNAKES ON THE TRAIL in the About section of the 3H website.
David & Letlet
Mesa, AZ
Post #: 57
They are definitely enjoying the warmer weather! We've seen them this year, also, at Usery Mountain Recreational Park, Hieroglyphics Trail, Boulder Canyon Trail, and Seven Falls/Sabino Canyon. We know Gary reported one on the Goldmine Trail recently, too. Be careful out there!
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 188
The best way to avoid a snake bite is to stay away from them. If you encounter a snake on the trail, be patient and let it pass; stay on the trail. If you encounter a snake in an open area, give it a wide berth of about six feet. Rattlesnakes are estimated to strike within a distance of only half their body length---a distance most would not want to estimate inaccurately.

Rattlesnake venom contains two types of toxins: hemotoxins and neurotoxins. The hemotoxins are responsible for the breakdown of body tissues and blood cells which cause internal hemorrhaging. Neurotoxins serve to immobilize the nervous system, slowing breathing, if not stopping it all together.

While not all snake bites result in envenomation (venom injection), it is best to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Contact the nearest medical emergency facility or the ARIZONA POISON CONTROL CENTER at 1-800-222-1222. Not all medical facilities carry antivenin (venom antidote) so it is important to call ahead.

What TO DO in case of snake bite:

* Wash the bite with soap and water.
* Immobilize the bitten area.
* If the wound is on an arm or leg, remove any restrictive clothing or accessories (watches, rings, etc).
* Keep the affected area lower than the heart.
* Seek medical attention.

Common Symptoms of Snake Bite Envenomation:

* bloody wound discharge
* fang marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite
* severe localized pain
* diarrhea
* burning
* convulsions
* fainting
* dizziness
* weakness
* blurred vision
* excessive sweating
* fever
* increased thirst
* loss of muscle coordination
* nausea and vomiting
* numbness and tingling
* rapid pulse

Though US medical professionals may not agree on every aspect of what to do for snakebite first aid, they are nearly unanimous in their views of what not to do. Among their recommendations:

What NOT TO DO in case of snake bite:

* DO NOT allow the person to over-exert themselves.
* DO NOT apply a tourniquet or cold compresses to a snake bite.
* DO NOT cut into the wound with a knife or razor.
* DO NOT suck the wound by mouth.
* DO NOT give the person pain-relievers unless a directed by a physician.


Desert Critters: Rattlesnakes
Banner Poison Control Center

For Goodness Snakes! Treating and Preventing Venomous Bites by John Henkel
US Food and Drug Administration

Snake Bites. First Aid Potential Emergency Situations and Conditions
University of Maryland Medical Center

Rattlesnakes: How To Treat Rattlesnake Bites
Jim Weaver
user 7032406
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 295
Do pants protect against snakebites very well? I wonder at what height most bites occur. From the knee down?
A former member
Post #: 9
Do pants protect against snakebites very well? I wonder at what height most bites occur. From the knee down?

I'm not an expert in any way, but according to my SAR friends, majority of venomous snake bites occur on the hands, arms and lower legs. Most "accidental" bites occur when an unsuspecting hiker/hunter is reaching for a handhold on a steep climb or not looking where they step. Heavy denim jeans can afford a small amount of protection to the legs, but as my daddy used to say "a pound of prevention...yadda yadda yadda....". I wouldn't rely on denim to keep me from getting bitten, besides, it's too hot to hike in jeans!

Incidentally, 90% of non-hiker related snake bites occur when masculine carbon based lifeforms in their early 20's encounter large quantities of social beverages in a desert setting. I hear drunken "hot snake-tato" is loads of fun.....

Thanks for all the information. Anything that helps us enjoy the outdoors safely is worth reading.
A former member
Post #: 1
Nice information. I like to keep the following in mind as well.

The demographic of the majority of snake bites fall into the following category.

Male between the ages of 18 and 25, tattooed, intoxicated, and trying to touch the snake. I am not kidding!

Also, if you are bitten, the literature states that 25-50 percent of the bites will be of the 'dry' variety. The snake needs its venom for catching prey. It knows that the hiker is too big for a meal and doesn't want to waste the venom. It needs it to catch food to eat!

These little facts along with the other great information posted by P-K will hopefully keep people on guard, but not too scared to enjoy the trails.

sandy price
Phoenix, AZ
Post #: 1
I heard but did not see my very first rattler on the trail in the phoenix preserve, after more than 15 years of hiking.

It was quite exciting, but I did not FREEZE (next time I'll know better). The rattle seemed to come from ahead of me and I just turned around and went back the way I came. My hiking companion wanted to "go take a closer look" (no beer, mid-40s, proving that it may be the MALE part of the equation at work, rather than the alcohol) but fortunately he was behind me, unable to move forward as I was in the process of high-tailing it backward.

Thanks for this timely piece on snake encounters.
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