Warm weather brings snakes

Jul 9 2011 - 10:45pm

OGDEN -- The warm weather doesn't mean just people out and about; snakes are, too.

Despite the long winter, it seems the snakes woke up from hibernation when their biological clocks went off on time in April, said Arlo Wing, a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources specialist. But because it was cold for so long, only more recently have the cold-blooded reptiles become more active.

"The flip side to that is, people have not been out nearly as much," Wing said. But now that it feels like summer and they are, the chances of human run-ins with snakes are that much greater.

The Great Basin rattlesnake is the only venomous snake indigenous to the Top of Utah, but it is common. Hikers who are out for most of the day should expect to run into one or two, Wing said.

He notes that sometimes the rattle falls off the snake, which can make identifying one more difficult. As a general rule, poisonous snakes have narrow pupils, while nonpoisonous snakes, have round pupils.

Non-venomous snakes, however, still bite, and it will hurt, Wing said.

"If (you) come across a snake, leave it alone," he said.

In particular, hikers have the highest chance of running into a snake during the cooler hours of the day, when snakes like to sunbathe, he said.

If a poisonous snake bites, there are a few first aid tips that the division and other wildlife groups advise anyone to follow.

Keep the victim calm and restrict his or her movement; this will slow down the spread of the venom. Clean the wound, cover it and call for help. If at all possible, call ahead to the emergency room so anti-venom is ready when the patient arrives, in case the hiker is not taken by paramedics.

If a hiker is bitten by a nonvenomous snake, clean and sterilize the bite before calling for help. An unattended bite can still become infected.

The wildlife division has not received any reports of serious or deadly snake bites so far this year.

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