By David E. Jensen
Though the risk of being bitten by a venomous snake is low in Utah, it still makes sense to stay out of harm’s way. These tips from snake expert David E. Jensen can help you peacefully co-exist with your reptile neighbors. Remember, all native Utah snakes are protected species. It’s illegal (and just plain mean) to harm or kill any snake.
• In Utah, only rattlesnakes are venomous. There are no cottonmouths, copperheads, or coral snakes here, and no diamondback rattlers either. Any native snake without a rattle is harmless to humans.
• Never crawl under a fence in tall grass or reach into a hole or bush. Avoid rocky or brushy areas.
• When climbing, never place your hands where you can’t see them.
• Snakes feel vibrations in the ground. To reduce your chances of seeing a snake, walk with heavy steps.
• Snakes will often bask on trails or roads. Do not step over a snake as they can be startled and inclined to strike.
• Bites from harmless snakes can be treated with soap and water.
• If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, there is a 25% chance that the bite is “dry,” meaning that no venom was injected. If envenomation occurs, symptoms may include pain, swelling, nausea, muscle tremors, weakness, dizziness, and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat). Keep the bitten extremity lower than your heart. Do not panic or exert yourself.
• Do not attempt treatment in the field! Cutting, sucking, tourniquets, ice, and liquor are outdated treatment methods that can do more harm than good. Stay calm and get to a hospital or call 911.
David E. Jensen is a freelance writer, snake advocate, owner of Wasatch Snake Removal, and administrator of the Utah Reptile Forum on Facebook. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.