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Local expert predicts busy rattlesnake season
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Local expert predicts busy rattlesnake season

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This year’s cold, rainy weather may delay rattlesnake season a bit, but it ultimately will mean more snakes when they surface in full force, probably at the beginning of April.

One person has been bit in Tucson so far this season.

Animal Experts Inc., which responds to snake calls for the Tucson Police Department, has had a few calls already this year, said co-owner Jeff Carver. It normally responds to about 1,000 rattlesnake removal calls a year.

One snake was found in a garage. It had been hibernating and someone  woke it up by moving things around, he said. Another one was in a yard on the Northwest Side. “I can’t think of any reason why it would have been out there,” Carver said. “It was cold. I was bundled up.”

Usually rattlesnakes don’t come out until the weather heats up, he said. “They need the warmth to start hunting. When it’s cold, they’re really slow moving.”

The connection between the rain and the rattlesnakes is vegetation, Carver said. Rain increases the number of plants, which increases the number of  rodents, which increases the number of snakes.

But here are some precautions:

• Keep down debris around your house. Get rid of things that offer cover for rodents. Snakes are eating machines. They go where the food is. So control the food source.

• Don’t pick up rocks or other things rattlesnakes could be hiding under.

• If you’re in the desert, stay on the paths.

• Wear a good, sturdy pair of hiking shoes.

• Carry a walking stick to prod brush if it is across your path.

• If you hike with your dog, go to snake avoidance training.

• Keep your dogs on a leash – a short one, Carver recommends.

And be aware of your surroundings, he said.

If you encounter a rattlesnake, slowly back away. Most snakes won't come after you, he said. “Most snakes realize we’re too big to eat and they go away.”

A nice thing about rattlesnakes, Carver said, it that he’ll let you know he’s there.

"We’re lucky in that respect. The only poisonous snake we have to worry about here is the noisy rattlesnake. Back East, there are more types of poisonous snakes, and they don’t make any sounds.”

Once they do come out, Carver said, they'll be around until the cold weather hits, normally October.

If a snake bites you

  • Call 911 or seek immediate medical attention
  • Remain calm
  • Immobilize the bitten arm or leg and stay as quiet as possible to keep the poison from spreading through your body
  • Remove jewelry before you start to swell
  • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart
  • Cleanse the wound, but don't flush it with water, and cover it with a clean, dry dressing
  • Apply a splint to reduce movement of the affected area, but keep it loose enough so as not to restrict blood flowDon't use a tourniquet or apply ice
  • Don't cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom
  • Don't drink caffeine or alcohol
  • Don't try to capture the snake, but try to remember its color and shape so you can describe it, which will help in your treatment

Source: mayoclinic.com

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