5 Helpful Tips On Avoiding Rattlesnakes While Hiking [2020]

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Few things instill fear in a hiker or camper more than coming across a rattlesnake in their path. These are indeed vicious animals, but is avoiding rattlesnakes while hiking or camping really possible?

Fortunately, the answer to that question is “yes,” and it’s a lot easier than you think. In this quick guide, you will learn:

  • what exactly are rattlesnakes

  • are they really lethal to us, humans and to what extent

  • what is their behavior and reaction towards human beings

  • Actionable tips on how to avoid snake encounters

  • Everything you need to do in case you get bitten by a rattlesnake

So if you want to obtain some valuable knowledge on how to deal with those dangerous animals and stay safe, you’ll like this article.

Let’s jump right in.

What Are Rattlesnakes?

Nearly everyone knows what a rattlesnake looks like. We’ve seen them in movies and even in textbooks, and they are known by the rattling devices on the ends of their tails.

rattlesnake

Snakes rattle their tails when they feel threatened or to warn passersby, and the noise made from the rattles can be very loud. And creepy.

Although roughly 7,000 to 8,000 people per year get bit by venomous snakes in the United States, including rattlesnakes, the number of deaths is very low – usually only about five per year.

At the same time, who wants to get bitten by a rattlesnake and endure all of that pain? No one does, which is why avoiding them in the first place is your best course of action.

The good news is that rattlesnakes tend to avoid wide open spaces and generally do not like humans, mostly because their intention is to hide from their predators.

Rattlesnakes are native to the Americas and are found mostly in the Southwest and into Mexico, with the states of Texas and Arizona having the most types of them.

If there is any good news associated with a rattlesnake bite, it’s the fact that most bites are not fatal. In addition, if you receive an anti-venom treatment within two hours of the bite, your chances of a full recovery are more than 99%.

It can also take up to 48 hours for death to occur, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get medical treatment immediately.

Not All Rattlesnake Bites Are the Same

If a rattlesnake bites you, it is possible not to get any venom, to only get a small amount of venom, or to get a lot of venom.

dangerous snake

Several factors can affect the amount of venom you receive, including how aggressive or angry the snake is, the size of the snake’s fangs, and whether the venom sack is full.

Indeed, even though it can take up to four days to die from a venomous snake bite, it can also take only around six hours for this to happen, so time is always of the essence when you’ve been bitten.

When you are bitten, you’ll usually experience some swelling and some burning pain a little away from the actual bite. You can also experience symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Heart failure (although this is rare)
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Perspiration
  • Severe pain
  • Tingling
  • Weakeness 

If you get bit by a rattlesnake and experience no pain or other symptoms after several hours, this usually means you either didn’t receive any venom or there isn’t enough venom in your system to cause you any concern.

Roughly one-third of the time, in fact, you won’t get any venom from the bite at all. Getting the wound checked out by a doctor, however, is still not a bad idea.

Here’s another truth that should make you feel a little better about rattlesnakes:

Over 70% of the people who get bit by rattlesnakes each year are young, male, and usually intoxicated.

In other words, most bites occur when humans try to tease or pick up the snake, or when they get a little too close for comfort for the snake to feel safe.

So, we’ve determined that rattlesnakes don’t like humans and they rarely bite, and even if they do bite, it is usually not fatal.

But when you don’t want to take that chance in the first place, there are some things you can do to avoid rattlesnakes altogether.

Avoiding Rattlesnakes While Hiking

If you’re getting ready to hit the hiking trail and you want to make certain you avoid any rattlesnakes in the area, there are some things you can do that are usually very effective.

These include the following:

#1 Become Familiar With The Places You Might Find Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes usually prefer hot climates. Some of them prefer the desert and some of them, including the diamondback rattlesnake, prefer moister climates.

Beware Rattlesnakes

The main thing to remember, however, is that they love warm climates. This means if it gets a little cooler outside, they may venture out in search of warmth.

#2 Dress the Right Way Before You Go Outdoors

You’ll want to dress so that if you do get bit, your clothing and shoes will absorb most of the impact of the bite.

This means wearing long pants and shoes that cover the entire foot area, and preferably the ankles as well. Good hiking boots, therefore, are perfect. Never, ever wear open-toe shoes or sandals!

#3 Pay Close Attention The Entire Time

When you’re hiking in an area known to be frequented by rattlesnakes, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times.

If possible, always hike with a friend, stick with a well-known trail, and never go into tall grass or a woody area unless you inspect it first.

If you sit down to rest, look at the area to make sure there are no snakes around. Step on rocks and logs instead of over them to make sure they’re not snakes and never try to grab anything you see nearby because it may be a snake.

#4 Carry a Stick With You As You Hike

If you go hiking with a stick, it is easy to use that stick to move things in front of you out of the way so you can be sure no snakes are there.

hiking with a stick

You can use the stick to shake up nearby grass and shrubs to determine if snakes are there. This serves another purpose as well – it alerts snakes that might be in the area that there are humans nearby.

In that case, they will do their best to slither away from you (remember, they don’t like humans!).

#5 Be Especially Careful Around Water

Keep in mind that snakes can swim. In fact, if you are walking past a bit of water, even if it’s water in a ditch, and you see something that looks like a stick, it could very well be a snake.

This is yet another reason to be alert at all times while you hike because as you can see, being just a little proactive when you’re out hiking in an area known to have snakes is the best way to avoid them.

What to Do If You See A Rattlesnake

Of course, even if you’ve taken all the precautions you can, there will still be times when you run into a rattlesnake or another type of venomous snake, and believe it or not, the best thing you can do in this circumstance is to stay calm.

scared couple in the woods

Easier said than done, right?

In any case, just keep in mind that rattlesnakes are likely more afraid of you than you are of them. 

Since they only bite when they feel threatened, you can calmly back away from them and head out in another direction.

Although this should be obvious to everyone, it bears repeating: never taunt a snake or provoke it in any way.

Its natural instincts will rise up and it’ll feel threatened, which greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll get bitten.

In fact, leaving the snake alone completely is your best defense at this point, so walk away and let the snake go on its merry way as well!

If you remember what we said earlier, you’ll know that most of the time, people are bitten when they are trying to handle the rattlesnake for one reason or another.

Never try to move the snake out of the way with your hands. Stay as far away from the snake as possible and leave quietly.

What To Do If You Get Bitten

If you get bitten by a snake regardless of how careful you’ve been, remember that seeing a doctor as soon as possible is always the smartest thing to do.

But if you’re in the middle of the woods and wish to do something before you leave for the hospital, what should you do first?

Ideally, you can use one of the many over-the-counter snake bite kits that you really should already have in your backpack if you’re a regular hiker.

Contrary to what you see in the movies, never suck the venom out of your wound because it’s too easy for it to get into your bloodstream, which can be dangerous for you.

Follow the directions in your kit and don’t panic, and try to get to the hospital quickly, especially if the symptoms are already starting to appear.

Conclusion

Avoiding rattlesnakes altogether is the best way to never get bitten by one, and now that you know how rare it is to get bitten or to die from a rattlesnake bite, you should feel a little better about your next hiking outing.

But don’t get too cocky or arrogant. Just be careful and use some common sense and you should be fine.


Have you ever had an encounter with snakes while hiking? Leave a comment below!

  • Updated July 27, 2020
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