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I'm new to this group here but I'll keep my introduction short. I'm a student at University of Arizona so I live in Arizona. Being that I am not from this "neck of the woods" I was wondering if anyone could tell me what some of my biggest worries should be when out enjoying the desert countryside.

Feel free to share any sources you may have come across. I have yet to see my first live snake (and with a little luck perhaps I'll never have to encounter one).

Thanks for your time!

Snakes are most active in warm weather, will hibernate if it remains cold for a sustained period.  Rattlers are most problematic during the spring mating season.

Use a curved stick to probe five feet in front of you around the back sides of obstacles you will step by to rouse the snake, hopefully getting the snake to warn you, before you step next to it.  Also avoid stepping through grass-like flora that can provide cover to a dozing snake.  Be careful climbing rock formations, as that overhead handhold could hold a dozing snake.  Lastly, do not buy a snake kit, but do learn proper first aid for a bite.

Search the forum for more, using the keyword “snake”


gerutteltenIX- First and foremost I would like to take the opportunity to welcome you to the Trailspace community. Glad to have you aboard and I hope you find the info/advice here very useful.

Ok, snakes. While I don't have much personal exposure to the types you will encounter out west I do have a pretty vast knowledge when it comes to snakes in general.

My biggest thing is if you respect them they will most certainly steer clear of you. I have yet to run into a snake in the states that wanted to encounter humans. They typically bite out of the fear of harm to themselves. This could be due to the fact that one invades their space, steps on them, or as much as I hate to see this the ones who want to get a very close look/handle them when they have no business doing so.

Here(north east) we typically deal with Timber Rattlers, and Copperheads. I have had encounters with Coral Snakes, Eastern Diamondbacks, and Cottonmouths down south. The Cottonmouth can be aggressive when encountered. It seems to me to be about the most tempermental snake in the states. Always grumpy. :)

My biggest thing is this; if you pay attention to your surroundings and respect snakes you should have no problem with them in the backcountry... They are very beautiful creatures in their own right and should always be respected.

As much as you want no problems with them they want no contact with you even more.

As Ed has stated a probe(trekking pole/staff) to check in front of you on your path of travel is a definite, be aware of where you are placing your hands at all times, and most of all keep your eyes & ears open. You may not necessarily see them but some species will definitely let you know they are there through sound(rattlers.)

Also, knowing how to properly treat a snake bite can save your tail as well as those around you.

Keep in mind that just because a snake is non-venemous does not mean its harmless. Snakes do not brush their teeth or rinse with mouthwash. Their mouths have some pretty nasty bacteria in it that could cause one substantial health problems. If a snake can break your skin and get this bacteria into your bloodstream etc. you can be in for a very rough time.

Once again; welcome to Trailspace.

Happy hiking.

Welcome to trailspace gerutteltenIX.

The best advice I can give was given to me by Ross Allen when he came to visit my 2nd grade class.

"Don't step over a log, step on top of it."

It's similar to probing but I don't think he wanted 7 year-olds to be probing for rattle snakes.

The general folk wisdom for avoiding snake bites is to first recognize that you are too big for the snake to eat. Instinctively, therefore, the snake, to preserve its precious venom for food procurement, warns you away - hence the rattles on rattlesnakes. Just take the snake's advice.

Just try to avoid married couples of morticians and snake wranglers. Or at least make sure their towels are marked "hiss" and "hearse" -- ok, I couldn't resist...

So............., rattlesnakes fun to play with, Not so fun to step on.  As always you should be careful when out in the back country.  Big boots do make a difference.  Wesco Lineman's boots.


Cause the big boys/girls have long fangs they can sometimes go through a pair of about leg armor?


Padded of cource.

If your really worried, add a pair of horse ridding chaps, different from motorcyle chaps.

Seriously though, All this stuff is way to heavy more than less for the backcountry.  The site above has some good prices on what appears to be some quality products.  Prices are very compairable to prices for the same items aimed at the backpacking industry.  I'm looking at the gaiters/leg armor myself. 


Below is a great probing stick.  It's is a golf ball retriever.  It is telescoping and adjustable from 44in to 14.5 feet. It's light weight aluminum.  I use them to retrieve fishing lures form the shore and the boat.  If you decided to look at your local Goodwill/Second hand stores you might try in the section with golf clubs or fishing poles.  You could easily put a proper snake hook on the end. Never know when you might have to drag a snake out of camp. ;-}>  .I got both of the ones I have for $3.00.





ocalacomputerguy said:

"Don't step over a log, step on top of it."

 I have similar advice:  "Keep your eyeballs open and your butt cheeks clenched."

Okay boys, here are some reptiles I've seen on the trail in the last couple years:


This guy was very disturbed and was on the trail to get water on Bob's Bald.


This guy was mellow and right on the Fodderstack/BMT trail.


This pretty specimen was on the Burnthouse trail along Upper Creek in Pisgah.


This boy coiled up on the Stiffknee trail.


This curious guy was on the trail on Slickrock Creek.


This rattlehead was hiding in the high grass on an open bald.


Finally, this guy is on the South Fork Citico trail.

welcome GeruttEltenIX!

The early warning system of a rattler is very helpful. You will see some if you frequent trails, and all of the advice here is good.


Southern Pacific Rattler taking a drink

This Mexican Black Rattler was at 8000 ft in October of 2010. Surprising. He was very cold and moved s-l-o-w-l-y. to his den. Never even rattled, but the point is that snakes are just about anywhere.

Enjoy your time on the trails and don't worry much about snakes.

Welcome to TS and AZ gerutteltenIX

Like Xterro said, You will eventually come across a snake or two if you spend some time out there, but dont worry yourself to death over them. Use some common sense and pay attention and you'll have no probs.

Ed is so right,  !!DO NOT USE A SNAKE BITE KIT!! You can do way more damage then the snake bite could do.

Personaly I worry more about things like Spiders and Scorpions myself. Those little buggers hide where ya tend to put your hands. Like gathering wood or picking up rocks for a fire ring. Ive found a Scorpion or two under the tent when rolling it up.

I dont mean to alarm ya, just be aware and you'll have plenty of good and safe adventures.

What neck of the woods ya from?

I had a "close call" with a rattlesnake myself a couple years ago in the Florence Lake area in the Sierra.  I was hiking off trail.  It was a Sierra summer day in July.  I wasn't wearing knee-high boots, heavy long pants, etc as has been suggested here.  ... let's just say I wasn't protected by much.  I stopped near a creek, leaned over to get something out of my pack, and heard a "rustling" sound.  I remember thinking to myself, "that sounds like the noise from the rushing creek echoing off those rocks over there" ("over there" meaning a couple feet from where my head was, as I leaned over my pack which I'd set on the ground).  I wasn't sure, so I stood up, listened to the creek without the "echo", then leaned back again ...  it sure seemed like the sound reverberating amongst the rocks.

I'm not sure what clued me in to the reality of the situation, but suddenly I realized I was staring face to face with an angry rattlesnake.  Maybe it moved ... maybe my eye finally caught the rattler as it shook.

Anyway, I exited said position post haste.  My pack remained where it was.  At that point I hadn't read up much on rattlesnakes, and proper handling of such situations.  I envisioned that it might (ok, no laughter please) leap out at me if I went back to retrieve my pack.  After all, it was angry ... and rattling ... and I was an intruder in its space.

Anyway I stood shakily some feet away for a while before I finally summoned up the courage to go fetch my pack.  Needless to say the snake didn't pursue me as I carried the pack away.  Nevertheless, I snapped some photos (hardly able to hold the camera steady) from a VERY safe distance ... hence their blurriness (shot with a 55mm lens, at probably 15 feet, the close-up is an extreme crop).

This was my first experience with a rattlesnake ... in the Sierra, or anywhere for that matter.  Rattlesnakes were never much of a concern "growing up" in the White Mtns of NH.  I'm not ashamed to admit that now I have a bit of a rattlesnake phobia.  All the "just be carefuls" and "just avoid thems" in the world don't change the fact that I am very concerned about what will happen if I'm out on one of my solo treks & I inadvertently stumble onto one again... and am not so lucky as I was this time that the snake actually had the patience to deal with my intrusion without striking at me.

Sorry for the fuzzy photo ... it's an extreme crop, plus my whole body was shaking when I took the shot...

here you can see where the snake was, where I leaned over it while reaching into my pack (on the left).


I have been withholding this story for over 2 years... But here it is... it is what it is...  

Anyway, in the interim I have read a lot about proper etiquette for being out in snake country.  The one thing I'm left unclear on, since there are so many conflicting suggestions, is what exactly I should do if I were to get bitten, while on a solo trip in the wilderness.  If I'm 10-15 (or even 5) miles out, I won't be hiking to a hospital (and even if I hiked to the trailhead, a hospital could be 50 miles away, or more).  Apparently snake bite suction kits are out.  And I've read washing the area is out, because it makes it harder for the hospital (should I make it to one) to tell what kinda of venom is in me.  So I guess I should sit tight & send an SOS from my SPOT and hope it actually works???

I hope the OP doesn't consider this to be a hijack of his thread...

@ bheiser1 :

Thanks for that wonderfully honest description of a real world experience, and thanks for the shakkkkkkkky pictures. I've had many experiences in my life that did not go as planned usually due to circumstances involved. Your question is much like a question I've often been asked about motorcycling. It goes something like this. What do I do if I'm pulling High G's going around a blind corner and I have to put the bike down? So many variable‘s. There is no right answer(s).  There is a lot of wrong answers or things not to due. You can do everything right and still die form a snake bite. You have to use all that you have learned (book smarts) along with what's commonly known as street smarts, but here should be called backcountry smarts. Are you hiking with a buddy or others? If so they need to know about how to handle the situation regarding snake bites and shock. One advantages with hiking with others. I'm a loaner. I bike alone, I hike alone. Could file that under risky behavior. If you hike in rattlesnake country with low cut boots and shorts (street and book smarts) you are more likely to get bit, pretty simple. With all that being said. First. If you get bit, try and size up what's going on and get away from the snake. He/she is pissed. I'm well versed in this as I have raised snakes for many years. I’m well acquainted and an angry snake that will quite often keep biting you until you remove yourself from the strike area involved.  I have been bitten so many times in a single incident, that, by the time I realized what's going on and removed my self from the strike zone that I couldn't count the bite's when all was said and done. Google angry "blood python", nuff said. The next is to step back and chill, the shock will start to set in if it has not already quit often even if you have not been bitten, you don't know if yoiu've been bitten till you know.  Do not let fear take over.   Assess the situation. You do not what the weight of a backpack on your body with a snake bite. First set your pack down, but do not go far from it. Just because you think you have not been bit does not mean you have not been bitten.  Snakes have razor sharp fangs. I have walked around the house many times with blood running down my arm cause a snake struck me and I didn't check to see if it hit it's target because I did not feel it strike me. Check where you think the snake hit you, go thru your clothing layer by layer to see if it made it to the skin. Now stop in your tracks and if you have a cell phone, make a call and let someone know, even if you don't know if you've been bit. What if you figure out later and , oh, no reception........bummer? Oh you don't have a cell phone.........oh your hiking solo. Use your SAT phone, oh yo don't have one cause they cost lot or there heavy or something, I don't know may be your UL'ing it or something. Now it's getting complicated. While going thru your clothing and checking all the parts of your body that were within striking distance of the sake and settling down to see if there is any swelling anywhere, now is the time to take stock of yourself and wonder about the wisdom of being in the back country with the equipment you have chosen. The gear you use is only as good as your ability to make it back from your backcountry foreay. If you make it back you made the right choices. If you don't, could be you made some bad choices. If your in the back country and get bitten by a snake I would make your call's if possible, depending on your hiking mates if available and do what yu need to do to get to saftey.  Remeber a smoky fire if seen may bring help.   There is no pat answer here except to not get bitten. with that beings said:

Listen to each and every one of the people who post here.

Realize alot of people in this forum and in the back country have never seen or heard a wild rattle snake and that those who have not been bitten, at least the ones I've heard of so far on this forum.

Stay abreast of all the medical information available in regards to snake bites. Do not depend on people here to tell you about snake bite treatment unless they are a specialist in snake bites and their treatment(s). Now is the time to do your research.  I sucks when your dying from a snake bite and you say something like, well, My Uncle Johnny said: to do this..............., insert your own silliness, while everyone around shakes their heads.

Just as you need to be prepared for bears, moose, rogue elk, skunks, etc., you must be prepared for snakes.

Oh yea some above the ankle hiking boots and snake proof gaitors will "almost" assure you from not getting bitten, esp. if your worried about getting bit buy one, unless you put your hand on one.

Oh yea don't put your hand on a rattle snake. I know a guy who did and he has half a hand now, and he's lucky.

I may have the chance to go to Thailand for a month during the second half of Dec to the end of Jan and am doing an extensive search right now of poisonous snakes/animals/bug and carnivorous/dangerous animals of Southeast Asia.

Here is a good site with simple info that will get you started.  As it showes in the stats., you should be more afraid of dying of a spider bite in the US than a snake bite, but not by much.

Thanks Apeman.  The especially scary thing about that particular situation was that if the rattler had struck, it probably would have hit my face... probably one of the worst places it could happen.

I've read up on the various suggestions to snakebite treatment, "just in case".  Unfortunately most say to just keep the victim still & get medical help immediately.  So since I hike solo, and likely many miles from medical help, I'd be up the proverbial creek.

I guess it's just a risk I take by hiking solo.

I've seen and met a lot of snakes over the years.  Most want nothing to do with humans.  Usually, if you stop and slowly move out of their way, everything will be alright.  (Always exceptions)

As Azrhino stated, you will probably have more problems with scorpions & spiders.  Check your boots in the morning.  Scorpions like dark quiet places.

Guyz said:

I've seen and met a lot of snakes over the years.  Most want nothing to do with humans.  Usually, if you stop and slowly move out of their way, everything will be alright.  (Always exceptions)

As Azrhino stated, you will probably have more problems with scorpions & spiders.  Check your boots in the morning.  Scorpions like dark quiet places.

 My point all along is to keep your eyes open and look at the trail ahead, look around when you stop for a break, and look around camp.  Here's a story:

     Summer camps along rivers have several lessons to learn, and this one comes from Johnny B when we were set up on Upper Creek at Burnthouse Creek Camp in Pisgah.  We had a fire late into the night and at around 1am it's time to crash so Johnny returns to his tent which is about thirty feet away in some trees on level ground.  As he gets up and looks into the tent vestibule with his minimag flashlight, he sees a copperhead resting in a coil inside his vestibule by his tent door.  This is an important lesson for all backpackers to remember:  All nighttime camps are never as secure as you think, so use your light and look around and keep your tent zipped up.  BTW, we relocated the snake into some laurel near camp.

     This snake becomes our camp buddy over the years and mates with another creekside copperhead so we have one happy family until a couple years later when a no-count thoughtless brainless motard of a fisherman passes by one sunny day.  On the creek rocks twenty feet from our tents we hear a loud rock against rock twack and run over to investigate and the non-rated a-hole kills one of our copperhead buddies with a rock to the head.  Instant and immediate rattlesnake bite to the face would've been the best payback but the guy lived long enough to hike out although I'm sure his life afterwards fell to pieces or at least I hope it did.  Snake killers are up there with loggers and deserve a long life of misfortune and suffering brought on by their thoughtless acts of ignorance.  We all make mistakes but we never screw up as much as snakekillers.

Tipi said:

We all make mistakes but we never screw up as much as snakekillers.

Tipi, You are so right!

I wish a person could educate folks to how much good snakes do.  They eat so many of the little rodents which like to eat through packs (if you don't keep a clean camp) and spread ticks & lice.

It is difficult to change the idea "that the only good snake is a dead one."  I had a king snake that hung around our N. Louisiana home for many years.  During that time, I never found a single poisonous snake or much of a problem with mice.  In fact, I only came across 1 or 2 little garter  snakes.

 The neighbor kills the snake when it crosses the road.  That year I had 2 copper heads, 1 water moccasin, & a small ground rattler.  I have a mouse problem which comes more often now also.  I wish I could invite another King snake back.


How did you relocate the snake?

In Australia, which has more species of highly poisonous snakes than any other continent, there is a $7500 fine for killing a (extremely venomous) tiger snake, IIRC.

As for loggers, most homes in North America would not have been built without them. There is logging and logging. Some is actually good for the ecosystem, some very bad. Discernment is required. Don't get me going about pulp production....grrrrrr!

ocalacomputerguy said:


How did you relocate the snake?

 We used a stick and carry him into the doghobble.

overmywaders said:

As for loggers, most homes in North America would not have been built without them. There is logging and logging. Some is actually good for the ecosystem, some very bad. Discernment is required. Don't get me going about pulp production....grrrrrr!

 I can't see how bulldozing a road along a contour of a mountain side to get the trees out can be good for the ecosystem, but hey, don't get me going . . . . .


Obviously many of the worst logging practices are functions of simple greed. It is cheaper to bulldoze a road than twitch the logs out or use haulers over long distances. Enforce many of the laws that already exist and logging would be held in check. Unfortunately, we have had ten years of giveaways to mining and logging firms. Public lands have been stripped with little income for the treasury.

Selective harvest works. Sacrificial trees work. Avoiding monoculture works. These are simple methods to use forest lands to meet commercial needs while preserving the forests for hikers and other wildlife. :)

Welcome to Trailspace.  All the posts are good advice.  I grew up in the south west and would like to add one thing.  Watch out for baby snakes, they hatch around March-April look like old dog poop coiled up under a bush, white and gray in color and can be over looked.  They have a spike on the nose in place of fangs and pack as much poison as a big snake, and no rattles to warn you they are there.  

One mistake people make is they hear the rattler and run which causes a strike, or they run toward the snake.  I have found - hear the snake- stop - find the snake visually, turn your head slowly not your body or have a friend spot it for you.  Take appropriate action?

In 30+ years of desert hike and camping I have encountered very few snakes.  Have fun and enjoy the beauty of the desert.

I have run into snakes in the deep woods, but never will be an expert on them.  I like the "lore" mentioned by all of you, because heeding it adds to my probability of living for the "next" hike, aside from best-care medical advice we should all consult, from other sources. 

You folks' input shows me I need to be careful to shift gears when there is "white-sound" (background noise, like the creek) and use my eyes more than my ears at those times.  Also, constantly scanning to see "who's home here?"; unfailingly using my walking stick like blind people do (esp when vision is "impaired"), "wear protection" (like the coach told us in highschool), go ahead and add to pack-weight whatever medical/communications gear is "reasonable" (any more is too heavy), and always like yourself enough to be ready to meet the Great Spirit.

Part of the "experience" is being in the animals' domain, part of mother nature's effort to keep herself in balance; and some of us truly don't come back from the encounter.  Seems like we wouldn't go there if it weren't so!

August 14, 2020
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