Rattlesnakes in Arizona
by Rattlesnake Joe
(Unknown canyon in AZ)
Q. Howdy, My wife and I are snowbirds roaming around central Arizona in our 17' Casita travel trailer. The high axle wheels on the trailer and the 9" ground clearance of the SUV allow us to go off-road to most places down here and we love the freedom of camping in out-of-the-way places.
Only problem is the Mohave Green Rattlesnakes. Once bitten, you only have about 20 minutes to live. By the time the helicopter or ambulance gets to you, you are dead. What do you suggest we do?
Marianne's Reply: Have you actually seen many rattlesnakes? We've only encountered two in all our years of desert camping. Neither encounter was while we were hiking or at risk. We saw one on the road while driving, another docilely wandered into our campsite. Of course, they do exist, so here are a few precautions you can take:
Since rattlesnakes are mainly nocturnal, don't go out at night. They hibernate in winter, so avoid the warmer months. Check into buying snake gaiters (available at most outfitters for around $60.00).
Use common sense: make noise and vibrations as you hike so you won't surprise them - hiking poles are good for this, never put your hands or feet where you can't see, and always listen for the warning rattle.
Some statistics: Of approximately 7000 to 8000 bites annually by venomous snakes in the USA, only 15 are lethal. Apparently, 85% of all bites are below the knee so, with gaiters on, you could beat these odds.
Finally, of course, every type of adventure has some risk, so keep your last will and testament up to date :-)