Rattlesnakes coming out of dens in Carson Valley; safety encouraged | SierraSun.com

Rattlesnakes coming out of dens in Carson Valley; safety encouraged

Taylor Pettaway
tpettaway@nevadaappeal.com

Several rattlesnake sightings were reported last week near Prison Hill, Ash Canyon and Jacks Valley, and Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said this isn’t uncommon with this type of year.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — With the weather warming up, residents and visitors to Northern Nevada can expect to see snakes coming out of their dens.

Several snake sightings were reported last week near Prison Hill, Ash Canyon and Jacks Valley, and Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said this isn't uncommon with this type of year.

"They are starting to emerge from their dens and people will be outdoors with the weather warming up," Healy said. "The snakes are still lethargic at this time because they are still trying to warm up."

Nevada is home to five rattlesnake species that are dangerous to humans and pets; the Sidewinder, Mohave, Speckled, Western Diamondback and Great Basin rattlesnakes. These snakes can range from 1.5 to 4 feet long.

Signs of a venomous rattlesnake include: broad triangular shaped heads, a thick body and a rattle at the end of their tail, according to Healy. However, the only exception is a juvenile who has not shed enough skin to develop a rattle yet.

Hikers and pet owners need to be highly aware when taking animals into rock piles or bushy areas. Healy said anyone hiking in the backcountry or urban interfaces should wear calf high boots and loose fitting pants; be cautious where your pets are; and to avoid putting hands in or under anything where you can't see, such as lifting up rocks or loose boards, as those are common areas snakes seek shelter.

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Hikers should also carry a walking stick for rustling brush, don't walk into high brush or other area if you can't clearly see the ground, and don't walk quietly as it's better to make sure the snakes sense you as they have more fear of you and flee.

Another common hiding ground for snakes are inside doorsteps or on top of logs or climbing rocks.

In the early months of summer, snakes will be seeking the sun to warm up, however once the days get too hot, they will seek shade during the day and be active mostly in the early morning or evening.

"People have the bad habit of turning over rocks or boards and we have the rule, don't put your hand where you can't see it," Healy said. "If a pet gets bit, if they don't die, it can rack up the vet bills."

Though it's uncommon, snakebites do occur for humans and pets, and it's best to stay calm if a bite occurs. For adults, the most serious effect is local tissue damage, which is treatable, however, for children because they are smaller they are in more danger if bitten.

The most important thing to do is get to a doctor as soon as possible, while still staying calm. Frantic driving places the victim at greater risk for an accident and increased heart rate.

Healy said they also have a lot of problems with people killing nonvenomous snakes such as a gopher or racer snake.

"You just have to leave snakes alone," Healy said. "Not all snakes are rattlesnakes."

There are also avoidance training for dogs, so they don't try to approach a snake either, and can possibly alert you to any danger as well. The German Shorthair Pointer Club and Get Rattled are two Reno based organizations who hold trainings for dogs.

Visit GSPCofReno.com or getrattled.org to learn more.

EDITOR’S NOTE

While not as common due to colder temperatures at higher elevations, rattlers can take up residence in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and more so in the Truckee area, where it gets the warmest during the summer. Visit wildlife.ca.gov/News/Snake to learn more about rattlesnakes from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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What to do in the event of a snakebite:

Try to remain calm and inactive.

Get to a hospital or doctor as soon as possible (have someone else drive).

Loosen or remove any restrictive clothing or jewelry (e.g. shoes, watch) from the area near the bite.

Watch the victim for signs of shock. Treat if necessary by lying flat with feet elevated and cover with warm clothes or blanket.

Identify or photograph the snake only if it remains visible from a safe distance.

What NOT to do in the event of a snakebite:

Don’t make incisions over the snakebite.

Don’t constrict the flow of blood.

Don’t immerse a limb in ice water.

Don’t elevate the bitten area (this will increase the flow of venom to other tissues).

Don’t use your mouth to extract venom. Sucking out the venom is no longer a recommended practice, and wastes valuable time (commercial venom extractors like the Sawyer snake-bite kit may be somewhat helpful if used properly, but shouldn’t be relied on. The important thing is to get to a hospital as quickly as possible).

Don’t run or carry unnecessary items as you go for help, to avoid elevating your pulse rate.

Don’t try to catch or kill the snake.

Don’t administer any pain medications or antihistamines, unless instructed by a doctor or EMT.

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