The warmer weather here in Lake Arrowhead not only brings an abundance of sunshine and a lot of outdoor activities, but it also brings increased chances of encountering a rattlesnake. In 2016 two women in San Bernardino National Forest were attacked by a rattlesnake. In 2018 a man, while camping, was bitten by a rattlesnake. These are just two stories of rattlesnake bites, but each hold similar stories : They didn't see the snake or the bite coming. It happened that fast.
Often times, and it has been reported, that as the temperatures rise, so do rattlesnakes and they lurk in places that you can't see. Whether you are clearing your yard and reaching into areas you cannot see like over-grown bushes, walking on leaves or logs or moving rocks- it doesn't matter if you are hiking, in your own yard or at a campsite, when a rattlesnake is disturbed, all bets are off.
So, how do you spot and not disturb a rattlesnake if in your very own yard ?
- Look for concealed snakes BEFORE picking up rocks, sticks and firewood. Rattlesnakes especially love to camouflage themselves and are often very difficult to see. They hide in piles of rocks, shrubs, tall grass and logs. You will need to carefully observe these things before moving them or even sitting down for that sip of sweet tea.
- Never touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead. Snakes use their hidden position to strike and kill their prey. Their stillness is their game and within seconds can strike, before you even see it coming.
- Be cautious around fire pits and any burn pits. This is a great place for rattlesnakes to take up camp and they are easily camouflaged in ash and debris.
- After killing a venomous snake, step away, quickly. Even a freshly killed snake can sometimes still be able to strike, bite and more importantly penetrate WITH venom.
When Hiking and Camping here are some ways to not disturb a rattlesnake and potentially avoid a snake bite :
- Wear long pants and boots on hiking trails. By wearing long pants and boots it helps to block the venom of a snake if they are to strike you. You should never walk barefoot or hike in sandals, flip flips or any open toe shoe, no matter how hot it is.
- You should always stay on the trails and don't wander into the tall grass or overgrown weeds and bushes. The make-up of a snake is to hide from predators so that they can sneak up on the prey rather than it sneaking up on them. Trails were created so that snakes will have fewer hiding spaces on them.
- Always use the buddy system. While it is never safe to hike alone, it is especially true in areas where snakes can and will frequent. Having a buddy|partner ensures you will be able to get any help you need if any emergency should arise, including a snake bite. You and your partner should discuss, prior to your trip, a plan of action in the event of an emergency. Always have a plan and a plan that consists of your buddy trying to take a picture of the snake that has bitten. This step will ensure that medical professionals know how to treat you.
- If you bring children into the wilderness teach them as early as they can begin to understand the dangers that accompany it, and more importantly, to leave snakes alone and to respect snakes. You want to make sure that a child understands they are no match for ANY snake, snakes are never to be picked up - they are not a toy.
What do you do if you are bitten by a snake ?
- Get IMMEDIATE medical attention. In most cases you are best to call 911 so that treatment can begin as soon as possible. Symptoms from severe to life-threatening can occur within minutes after a venomous snake bite.
- Do not apply a constricting band, ice, and do not ever try to suck out venom or cut the area open. It has been proved that these methods can lead to amputation because you will have possibly constricted the blood vessels near the bite.
In all cases you want to try and remain calm and do not run. You want to try and always keep the extremity where the bite occurred below heart level until you are transported to the nearest medical facility for treatment.
Extra Tips :
- If you see a snake, stop and go the other way. Now is not the time to snap it, tweet it or Facebook live it.
- Be aware of any noises that you know a snake or rattlesnake will make, but keep in mind that there are times when a rattlesnake will NOT use their rattles. Snakes are afraid of us and often times they will not use their rattles, they will just strike out of fear.
- Wear baggy pants if possible. While any long pant can block venom, baggy pants give that much more distance between the venom and you.
- Wear higher cuts boots if possible. Most bites occur at foot to mid calf level because of the position of a snake if you are walking or hiking. Higher boots can protect you in these areas and provides a barrier between you and their venom.
NOTE : If ever you are bitten by a snake and you are unsure of what type of snake it is, the rule of thumb is to always treat it as though you have been bit by a venomous snake. The first thing you should do is remove any constricting clothing or jewelry that can obstruct you or medical personal from seeing swelling or being able to treat you.
Enjoy yourself this summer and always remain " Aware ".