Beware: It’s snake season in the Gila Valley

Beware: It’s snake season in the Gila Valley

By: Aimee Staten, Managing Editor
Eastern Arizona Courier -
Published on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 1:27 PM MST

Ahhh, springtime in the Gila Valley is a time of renewal and regeneration of wildflowers, baby bunnies, rattlesnakes and scorpions.

So while you and your children are out enjoying the warming weather and clear skies, make sure you also keep an eye out for creepy-crawlies.

There are 17 different species or subspecies of rattlesnakes in Arizona, but the most common is the Western diamondback. All are poisonous, and despite common beliefs, do not necessarily rattle before striking.

Taking simple precautions can prevent snake bites. Following are some snake facts and warnings from

• Leave wild animals alone. Fifty to 70 percent of reptile bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center were provoked by the person who was bitten — that is, someone was trying to kill, capture or harass the animal.
• Be aware of peak movement times. Reptiles in Arizona are most active in the warmer months of April through October. During the hottest months, they will be most active at night. They may be encountered during the day in spring and fall or during a warm day in winter.
• Watch where you put your hands and feet. Try to keep your hands and feet out of crevices in rocks, wood piles and deep grass. Always carry a flashlight and wear shoes or boots when walking after dark.
• Dead snakes can bite. Never handle a venomous reptile, even after it’s dead. Reflex strikes with injected venom can occur for several hours after death.
• Install outdoor lighting for yards, porches and sidewalks. If you see a venomous reptile in your yard, it is probably just “passing through.” However, if you are concerned about a dangerous animal in your yard, seek professional assistance in removing it.

My family had an up-close and personal encounter with a baby rattler about three years ago, and we found out that we had no idea how to handle a snake bite. Following is some very important advice about how to handle a poisonous snake bite.

• Don’t use ice
• Don’t use constricting bands or suction. Using “extractors” does not remove a significant amount of venom and the process can increase tissue damage
• Don’t give alcohol or medication
• Don’t wait to see if you get symptoms
• Don’t try to catch the snake
• The snake may bite again
• Capture will delay your getting to the hospital
• Treatment will be the same no matter which kind of rattlesnake bit you
• Do relax and move as little as possible
• Do splint the affected limb if you can
• Do remove tight clothing, shoes or jewelry from the bitten limb
• Do go to the nearest medical facility immediately.

If you are not sure what has bitten you or your child, call Poison Control, 1-800-222-1222, immediately. My husband and I treated our daughter’s bite as a scorpion bite until her leg began to turn black. My husband then called Poison Control, which realized immediately that we were dealing with a snake bite.