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Arizona rattlesnakes most active in April, how to keep an eye out and what to do if bit

Tips from Director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center
Posted: 12:56 PM, Apr 06, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-07 11:03:25-04
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — "Rattlesnake season" is upon us and according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD), they are most active in the daylight hours during spring.

"So, unlike many snakes that are diurnal daytime and nocturnal nighttime, rattlesnakes just need the right temperature, and they are out and about." Howard Bryne, an expert at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, said.

As great as they are for the state's biodiversity, rattlesnake venom can cause harm far beyond the typical swelling, bruising and pain.

"It feels like you are burning on the inside, but you don't really know why," Celia Cartwright-McCarthy, who was bitten by one in Tucson, said. "It's nothing I could ever explain unless it happens to you."

Cartwright-McCarthy was reaching for a hose outside her house and got bitten by a snake instead. At first she wasn't sure what had happened but once the welling started, she went right to the hospital.

Director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center Steve Dudley has some tips for anyone who's ever bit.

"The best thing people can do it get to a hospital ASAP," he shared. "The problem is you could have a serious bleeding risk and look totally fine, and there's no way to know that until we get labs to confirm what's going on."

Dudley reveals Pima County has documented 109 rattlesnake bites last year. Of those, 73 were in the Tucson area.

And contrary to what some may think, a person should not try sucking out the venom through their wound in any way.

"Some things you should not do are apply a tourniquet, put ice on it, take medications like ibuprofen or aspirin, cut open the wound and try to suck the venom out, or not get to a hospital immediately," he added.

The AGFD warns rattlesnakes easily blend into surroundings. Whether hiking or attending to a yard, Arizonans need to pay extra attention to where they're putting their hands and feet and listen for the distinctive sound of the snake's rattles, as heard and seen in the video player below.

The sound that a rattlesnake makes is very distinctive

Video courtesy of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Always carry a flashlight at night and don't go over the trails when hiking.

“Although accidents certainly happen, rattlesnakes are typically not dangerous unless provoked,” said Thomas Jones, amphibians and reptiles program manager for the AGFD.

If you see one it's best to wait and keep your distance.

"Most rattlesnakes if they have a choice will move away or they'll remain very still," Bryne said.

He added that it may be difficult to tell if it is a rattlesnake or another kind of snake. In this case, take a picture from a distance and then figure it out later.

Anyone interested in learning more may enroll in the AGFD's free, virtual "Learn the Truth about Rattlesnakes" course Thursday, April 7.

Caleb Fernández is a digital content producer for KGUN 9. After earning his bachelor's degree from Penn State in Advertising/Public Relations, Caleb went to New York where he learned production assistance, photography and art direction. Share your story ideas and important issues with Caleb by emailing or by connecting on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.