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Sun, Dec. 08

Beware the rattle: Rattlesnakes are awake, hungry and ready to defend their territory

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake looks back after being released near the entrance of Montezuma Castle on Thursday. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas/The Verde Independent)

The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake looks back after being released near the entrance of Montezuma Castle on Thursday. (Photo by Vyto Starinskas/The Verde Independent)

KINGMAN – Rattlesnakes have woke up from hibernation and they are starving. Hear a rattle? Walk away.

Rattlesnakes roam around Kingman, Mohave County, and throughout Arizona, and though an interaction with a human is the last thing on their wish list, a rattlesnake’s defense mechanism will make it attack those who violate its territory.

The snake season started in March and ends in November. A consequence of an encounter with one can be excruciating, if not fatal. At Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix, the Arizona Republic reports there have been 18 rattlesnake bites since February, including a 17-year-old boy who was bitten while playing soccer with friends. That is a lot, but the number fluctuates each year for reasons hard to identify.

Many Arizonans live their entire lives without encountering one, mostly by keeping their ears open during hikes through warm desert areas. There is nothing more characteristic than the rattle of a rattlesnake, a clear signal to walk away. Don’t wear headphones while walking and don’t reach blindly into the bushes. Keep an eye on your dog, too; keep it on leash. You should also invest in a pair of leather boots if you walk a lot.

Know your rattlesnakes. There are15 species in the area with the Western Diamond-backed, Western, Mojave, Black-tailed, and Sidewinder as the most popular snakes to be spotted. Currently, they hang out during the day, but when it gets warmer, they will become more active at night, and stay in a shade during the day. Snakes do not build their own holes, but often stay at other animals’ holes or are “basking” in the sun.

What to do when you get bitten? Seventy-five percent of the bites are poisonous with venom being actually injected into the bloodstream. If left there, it can be fatal. The most characteristic symptoms are swelling, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.

There are two medications available on the market: CroFab (about $2,300 per vial) and a brand new Anavip (about $220 per vial), which was used in Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix for the first time this year.

Keep in mind rattlesnakes are about to eat for the first time this year, too. They didn’t eat for months, and though they prefer rabbits, rodents, lizards and birds, they will gladly have you for their first bite of 2019.

Hear the rattle? Walk away.

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