Snakes and Hikers Can Co-Exist 

Many people have snake phobias and no one really wants to run into one on a hike, but if you do you don’t always need to panic. Most snakes generally try to avoid people, and often slither away when they feel your footsteps approach. Besides, snakes play an important role in nature and we need them to keep the rodent population, rabbits, other reptiles and even bird populations manageable. An imbalance in the food chain will occur without snakes

So, here are some quick facts about snakes and what you should do to avoid them while hiking.  We need each other, must live together and with respect for each other we should be able to get along. But in the meantime, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Snakes are generally secretive animals. In nature, they basically move from one hiding place to another in search of food, while trying to avoid becoming food at the same time. They can often be found in underground burrows made by other animals, or underneath rocks and logs, etc.  Snakes spend a lot of their time hiding in holes and they do this to protect themselves from other predators. It's a natural instinct. Generally, that snake is just as unhappy to see you as you are to see it.

Educate yourself about the area that you are hiking and the common snakes found there. Here’s one website that has pictures of the variety of snakes you might encounter in Arizona. Experts have identified thirteen types of rattlesnakes and hundreds of other types of snakes in Arizona.  Take some time to learn how to tell the difference between a “good” and a “bad” snake. Leave the good ones alone and don’t go near the venomous ones if you can help it.

Take precautions. Teach children to respect snakes and don’t let them run ahead of you on the trail, try to stay on designated paths or trails, steer clear of tall grass, weeds and thick underbrush. Always wear protective clothing when hiking, including gloves if possible. Don’t stick your hands under rock ledges, logs or stumps. Sturdy, high boots are preferred footwear. Finally, hiking with a partner is best in case either of you needs help. 

Dogs need to be watched as well.  Dogs are more susceptible than us to a bite since they are naturally curious, they don’t wear hiking boots to protect their feet, and their faces are closer to the snake. Plus, if you let them wander off leash to explore they may wander off the trail where it is harder to see a snake or avoid a snake.  Keep them close to you, on a leash or check into a rattlesnake vaccine before the season starts. There are also classes to teach dogs to be repelled from snakes and not attack them.

Finally, if you do get bitten by a venomous snake, here’s what to do:

* Stay calm.
* Treat for shock.
* Drive to the nearest hospital or medical facility. 
* Do not attempt to kill or capture the snake. You’re just asking for trouble and giving them another opportunity to bite.  
* Do not use a tourniquet. If tied too tight it may cause the loss of a limb.  
* Do not make cuts through or near the site of the bite.  
* Do not suck venom from the site.  
* Some people are allergic to antivenin medicine so don’t automatically give it to the victim. Wait for a doctor to test first.

Arizona has wonderful hiking trails with spectacular scenery and we all need to take precautions but not let the possibility of snakes hold us back from enjoying this beautiful state we live in. According to Arizona Poison Centers, less than one percent of rattlesnake bites result in human deaths. We all need to get out and about, and with a little education and some precautions no doubt snakes and hikers can co-exist. Happy trails from the Russo Team!

Frank Russo
The Russo Team
RE/MAX Professionals

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