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Rattlesnakes still biting as heat continues

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Rattlesnakes still biting as heat continues

  • A diamondback rattlesnake coiled near a cactus near Tucson.
    Carla Kishinami/FlickrA diamondback rattlesnake coiled near a cactus near Tucson.

Fall is approaching but the Tucson's heat remains high, making it a pleasant place for desert wildlife that thrive on spiking temperatures. 

Rattlesnake activity is still at its peak, and the snakes will continue continue to be active until October, experts said.

The snakes' activity was at its highest in the first three weeks of August; 14 people were reported bitten in just the first six days of last month.

There were a total of 39 bites reported in August, said Keith Boesen, the director for the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, which serves all of Arizona except Maricopa County.

“It’s still in the peak of the season,” Boesen said. There were eight bites in just the first five days of September and there will likely be more, he added.

The most common snake bite victims are those who are unsuspecting, Boesen said. 

“A lot of the bites come from people having a casual interaction with nature,” he said. 

Hikers are usually aware of their surroundings and are cautious of the area, he added. More than half of bite victims are people who don’t look where they’re stepping or putting their hands. People doing yard work or who try to handle the reptiles in an effort to move them out of the road often get bit, Boesen said.

The most active time for snakes is during the evening when it’s cooler. Snakes enjoy the same temperatures as people and like to hide in cool places. 

On average, there is at least one bite a day during the active season. The poison center receives about 140 to 150 calls each year regarding bites, Boesen said.

Because Tucson is more rural compared to cities like Phoenix, people are more likely to encounter snakes. Arizona has about 18 different types of snakes, making it home the the country's most diverse snake population, Boesen said.

“The best advice is to be aware,” he said. “Don’t blindly reach into a bush and hope there isn’t a snake there.” 

Avoiding venomous bites

  • Beware of active times. Reptiles in Arizona are more active during the warm months: April through October. During hot months, reptiles prefer the cool night air.
  • Watch where you step or put your hands. Reptiles hide from the heat in crevices or under rocks and other debris. Be sure to wear shoes or boots after dark.
  • Leave them alone. About 70 percent of bites were provoked.
  • Don’t handle dead reptiles. Snake reflexes can still result in a bite several hours after death.
  • Install outdoor lighting; snakes like to come out at night to enjoy the cooler temperatures. If you are concerned about dangerous reptiles in your yard, then seek professional assistance in removal.
  • Source: Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center news release

Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center

Located at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, the center serves all of Arizona except Maricopa County.

It provides free and confidential information on poison control and medication via a free 24-hour hotline: 1-800-222-1222.

The center is one of a total of 57 centers which make up the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center

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