While hiking the White Tank or Estrella Mountain trail, you see something dark, coiled up in the shade.
Or, while you relax on a lawn chair in your backyard, you hear an unmistakable rattle.
“Right now, rattlesnakes are very active,” said Brad Hoffman, owner of Arizona Wildlife Control in Buckeye.
In Arizona, March through November is considered rattlesnake season. During these months, Western diamondback rattlesnakes emerge.
“April is typically when the most rattlesnake bites are reported in Arizona. So far, there have been 39 bites reported in 2020 to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, 19 of those in April,” according to an April 23 release from the Arizona Fish and Game Department.
Hoffman, Daniel Marchand, executive curator for the Phoenix Herpetological Society, and Kevin Newman, owner of Arizona Snake Removal in Glendale, agree rattlesnakes should be treated with extreme caution.
This time of the year, Arizona deserts are loaded with blooming wildflowers. And, since COVID-19 restrictions, more people are on the trails.
Maricopa County hiking trails are prime locations for rattlesnakes.
“If you can, stay on a manicured trail and stay in the middle of the trail,” Hoffman said. “Those shaded areas are where a rattlesnake is going to be hiding.”
If you go for a hike and you see a rattlesnake, take one big step backward, stay calm and steer clear of it, Hoffman said. He said hikers should not be afraid of rattlesnakes but every hiker should respect them.
“We live in the desert, and it is full of rattlesnakes,” Hoffman said.
Marchand said uncut lawns and piled-up boxes make ideal rattlesnake hiding spots. He said routine landscaping and straightening up the exterior of your house could minimize your chance of a rattlesnake home invasion.
“Keeping your yard well maintained is not only trimming trees and plants but removing unnecessary items piled up in the corner or against a wall,” Marchand said.
He said installing snake fencing is a method that could help keep kids and pets safe. And installing adequate outdoor lighting could make the difference between a rattlesnake trespassing or moving on.
Marchand said keeping gates closed, removing unconsumed pet food and adding door sweeps can help reduce the chance of a rattlesnake slithering into your domain.
“Doing things like that could stop rattlesnakes from entering our yards and our homes,” said Marchand.
Newman noted rattlesnakes have quite a benefit.
“Rattlesnakes consume rats that could carry hantavirus or a host of other diseases,” Newman said. “The Arizona rodent population would explode without rattlesnakes.”
Newman said rattlesnake fear is not uncommon, but “rattlesnake anxiety” is generally unwarranted.
“Rattlesnakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. They just want to get into the shade. Rattlesnakes are peaceful animals that should be cherished,” Newman said.
Stay calm, act fast
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, call 911 as fast as possible. Follow the instructions of medical health experts. If you must drive, call someone to alert them about the specific direction you are traveling.
“It is critical that a rattlesnake bite victim get a dose of antivenom as soon as possible,” Newman said.
Experts recommend those who see a rattlesnake in or around the house should contact a rattlesnake removal professional, who will capture and relocate the rattler to a safe place.