Warmer weather and monsoon conditions bring snake population out of hiding

Feared and revered, venomous snakes often are wrongly depicted by western folklore as aggressive or menacing.

Warm weather and frequent overcast skies during the monsoon season bring snakes out of their hiding places, said Rebecca Peck, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management.

Snakes are cold-blooded and prefer warm weather, but when temperatures reach the high 80s or 90s they go back underground, Peck said.

"If it is too hot they could die, so they go underground during the day.

They can usually be seen in the early morning or around dusk," she added.

The monsoon cloud cover can bring the reptiles out during the afternoon as well, she said.

The most feared of four venomous snakes found in the Kingman area is the Mohave Green, considered to be the most toxic species of rattlesnake in the United States.

Although local folklore portrays them as being aggressive and even "chasing people," Mohave Greens, like other snakes, try to avoid human contact.

"If cornered they could become aggressive," said Zen Mocarski, information and education program manager for Arizona Game and Fish Department, Region III.

"It might seem like a rattlesnake is chasing someone, when it is just heading for a shelter site located behind a human, Mocarski said.

"The fact is that most snakes would rather flee then fight."

Nearly all rattlesnake bites are preventable, with a majority of bites occurring because snakes are provoked, Mocarsci said.

There is good reason to fear a Mohave Green, however, because its venom carries hemotoxins - which break down the skin cells around the bite causing tissue damage - as well as neurotoxins, which attack the central nervous system, affecting the brain and breathing.

The venom of most rattlesnakes is comprised primarily of hemotoxins.

The bite of a Mohave Green is the most dangerous of all venomous bites, Peck said.

"However, if you recover from the bite there is usually not as much tissue damage because Mohave Greens don't get as large as other rattlesnakes, so they have less venom, and only half the venom is hemotoxic," Peck said.

Other venomous rattlesnakes found in and the area are the diamondback rattlesnake, the speckled rattlesnake and the black, or Western, rattlesnake.

The bite of any venomous reptile requires immediate medical attention.

Antivenin administered by a doctor contains antivenin for the hemotoxin portion of the venom but not for the neurotoxin portion.

"If bitten by a Mohave Green, medical personnel will help you get through the healing process with other measures and medicines to help the body fight the poison," Peck said.

She added that most people don't die from the bite of a venomous snake, but they can become very sick and sustain lasting damage.

Older people and small children are more at risk from a venomous snakebite because their bodies are less able to fight the harmful affects of the venom.

The gopher snake is a reptile that looks like - and mimics the actions of - a rattlesnake, but is harmless.

The gopher snake is longer and thinner than a short, stout rattlesnake, Peck said, but the markings are similar.

In nature, all is not what it seems.

If it feels threatened, the gopher snake has the ability to make its head a triangular shape, like that of a rattlesnake.

"It will coil up and hiss.

It can even make a rattling sound in its lungs and move its tail," she said.

"It is very convincing."

Gopher snakes are good snakes to have around because they keep venomous snakes away and eat rodents.