Diamondback Rattlesnake
During the Spring season, you may see more snakes than normal due to the ending of their brumation period (hibernation-like state) and it’s also the beginning of mating season.  If we experience a drought this Spring, many snakes may move nearer to human habitats because of irrigation systems and food availability.  This increases the likelihood of human and snake encounters.

Let’s face it, when most people see a snake, they either run or figure out a way to kill it.  If you run from it, the snake will more than likely slither away and you probably won’t see it again.  Now if you kill it, here’s something you want to keep in mind.  The snake can still bite even if it’s been dead for an hour or so!  If it happens to be a venomous snake, this could be a real problem! 

Some years ago, a couple doctors at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix treated 34 snake bites in a 10-month period. What amazed them was 5 of those bites were from dead rattlesnakes!

One man was bitten when he handled a snake 3 minutes after he had shot it several times in the head.  Another was bitten when he tried to cut off the rattle of a snake he shot several times, including once in the head.  One patient picked up a snake whose head he had beaten in with a piece of wood.  Two men were bitten when they picked up rattlesnake heads that they had cut from the bodies.  All of the men survived, although one lost a finger.

What these guys didn’t know was a snake’s strike reflex can remain active for up to 60 minutes after they are dead or decapitated.  The moral of this story:  Do not handle a recently killed snake!

The Arizona doctors reported in an issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, “Young men – particularly while intoxicated – suffer a disproportionate number of ‘illegitimate’ rattlesnake envenomations.”  In other words (and this is not news to anyone), guys are more apt to mess with rattlesnakes and get bitten after they’ve been drinking!

The first aid rules for snakebite have changed over the years.  If bitten by a venomous snake and you’re near medical help, don’t try to cut into the bite, or suck out the venom, or apply ice, or apply a tourniquet.  Physicians say that any of these self-help methods can make the situation worse.  Just stay calm, keep the bitten area lower than your heart and get medical attention immediately.

You should not harass or handle any snake unless you’ve been trained to do so.  Any snake bite, even from a non-venomous snake, is potentially dangerous.  Snake saliva is full of bacteria that could cause infection if a bite does occur.  So, stay clear of snakes and they’ll stay clear of you!