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Leon's Blog

Be rattlesnake safe, but don’t let them keep you out of the woods

Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood.
Be rattlesnake safe, but don’t let them keep you out of the woods

I learned to respect venomous snakes when I lived in Mississippi and hunted the swamps and bayous. I’ve seen some big rattlers and cottonmouths in the wild, but never came close to getting bit. Navigation expert Blake Miller posted this  on his website, and it contains some good info. –  Leon

As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe. All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.

California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young. Additional species information can be found here:
California snakes, rattlesnakes, venom, outdoor precautions, bite, hiking, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, King snake, poison

Give this guy some space, and it will probably try to get way.

Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least 3 feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.
On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths.
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
  • Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
  • Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
  • Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

What to do in the event of a snake bite:

  • Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling.
  • Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.

What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:

  • DON’T apply a tourniquet.
  • DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
  • DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
  • DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
  • DON’T let the victim drink alcohol.
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Leon's Blog

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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