Be mindful of rattlesnakes on Colorado trails: 7 ways to avoid a rattlesnake attack

Posted at 1:50 PM, Apr 10, 2017

DENVER -- If you plan on venturing out on a Colorado trail this spring, you need to know that it's rattlesnake season.

Rattlesnakes are out and about again, potentially earlier than normal due to warm weather across Colorado. It's unavoidable: the venomous reptiles are permanent part of the landscape.

Expect to encounter a prairie rattlesnake during the morning or evening hours. They tend to hide during the mid-day hours. Rattlesnakes are typically found on the land, but they can sometimes climb in trees or bushes. 

Jefferson County Visitor Services Manager Mary Ann Bonnell said rattlesnakes, which are the only snakes in Colorado that pose a risk to humans, are typically first spotted in Apex and Matthews/Winters Parks as well as North Table Mountain.

Experts list several tips for outdoor enthusiasts, who have the greatest chances of meeting a rattler in the wild:

1.) Be vigilant: Keep your eyes on the ground and your ears peeled for any warnings from a rattler’s signature sound.

2.) Don’t entirely rely on the signature rattle sound: Experts suggest rattlers are becoming more silent to escape death from humans who would remove them from their habitat.

3.) Trail signs are your friends. Trust those who have gone before you, they’ve reported rattlesnake dens and the signs denote where rattlesnakes are likely to frequent.

4.) Rattlesnakes are most active between 50 degrees and 80 degrees, so be extra vigilant during the daytime, especially before it gets too warm for the rattlesnakes to be out and about.

5.) Most bites come from those who accidentally sneak up on a rattlesnake or attempt to grab a rattler. Don’t ever approach the snake, just back away from its den.

6.) Stay on trails. They’re open and typically an easy means to stay safe, as rattlesnakes can be easily spotted and avoided.

7.) If bit, don’t hesitate: Get to a hospital immediately. Hospitals can treat rattlesnake bites, but be expeditious about getting to the hospital. Call for 911, or have a friend rush you to the nearest medical facility.

If You Are Bitten by a Rattlesnake:

  • Immediately move away from the snake.
  • Remove any jewelry from the bitten area that might constrict as it swells.
  • Immobilize the limb if possible.
  • Stay calm and call 911.
  • If you are in an area without cell signal, slowly and calmly walk to where you can make a call.

One thing you should not do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake is try to suck the venom out of the bite. Experts say this could actually make the situation worse.

"If you have an open wound or say you accidentally cut yourself while you were flossing, then the venom could enter through your face," Bonnell said.

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