rattlesnake1Sure signs of spring in the desert: warming weather, blooming cacti — and rattlesnakes slithering out of their dens.

The information in the article that following was drawn from two sources, an article by Douglas Kreutz written for the Arizona Daily Star and from the http://snake-avoidance.com/ website.


Rattlesnakes typically come out of their winter dens in March or April, but uncommonly warm winter and spring weather brought some out earlier this year, said Randy Babb, a biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“We had those real warm snaps early on, so they’ve been out for a while,” Babb said, noting that snake sightings have been common.

“We saw eight or so of them when we were out on a research project recently,” he said.


Babb said Arizona is home to 13 species of rattlesnakes, with eight or nine species living in Southeastern Arizona, depending on how the region is defined.

They range far and wide — from deserts, canyons and forests to urban backyards.

Some rattlers slither a mile or more from their dens to places where they spend the summer, Babb said.


Rattlesnakes — sometimes called “buzzworms” because of the buzzing sound of their rattles — sometimes rattle before striking, but not always.

Some rattlesnake bites are so-called “dry bites” in which no venom is injected.

“During the last two seasons, the dry-bite rate was 19 percent in our patients,” Boesen said.

He said the best response to a bite is to go immediately to a medical facility for examination and treatment with anti-venom if needed.

“No cutting, no sucking, no tourniquets — none of that,” Boesen advised. “Just get to a hospital.”

He said plenty of anti-venom is available in Arizona this year.

Boesen and Babb said deaths from rattlesnake bites are extremely rare, and that there have been no known recent snakebite deaths in Southern Arizona.

Avoid rattlesnake bites

These tips for avoiding rattlesnake bites were provided by Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, and Randy Babb, a biologist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

• Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes — whether on a remote hiking trail or in your own backyard.
• Watch where you put your hands and feet. Avoid reaching into areas obscured by brush or rocks.
• "Don't approach or provoke snakes," Babb said. "A lot of people get bit while trying to capture, kill or tease snakes."
• "If you encounter a snake, take one or two steps back and you should be out of striking range," Boesen said.
• Some fire departments will remove rattlesnakes from a confined yard or house. Check with the department covering your area for information.


We can learn to protect ourselves by applying some of these commonsense precautions, however, a trip to your local pet trainer may be advisable for your four-legged friend. Click here to find a list of RAGofAZ trainer partners. You can then contact them about the snake avoidance training.



“Thanks, the snake training paid off. About 8:30 p.m.one Saturday evening I let my two dogs, Bosco and Emily outside to take care of business before they received their night-time treat and went to kennels for the night.

The pair had just gone out the door when they quickly turned and ran back inside. I picked up the flashlight and went out to see a rattlesnake had made its way inside our brick wall and was lying coiled next to one of the bistro chairs. Wow, the dogs had heard the rattle of the snake and or smelled it, or both and knew exactly what to do”.

Training dogs to avoid being bitten by rattlesnakes has many names. Snake breaking, snake proofing, snake avoidance, snake aversion and snake busting all come to mind. While these terms all mean the same thing, dog training procedures, techniques and methods vary between those performing the snake avoidance programs.

Snake Avoidance training focuses on "SSSS." Safety, sight, sound and smell. As we know, dogs instinctively react to sight, sound and smell, and can also be conditioned or trained to react in a positive manner to such senses. Of course, safety always comes first, especially when venomous reptiles are involved. Snakes used by the various trainers are incapable of biting a dog or person. Be sure to speak with your local trainer, ask them to share their philosophy and the precautions they take when using snakes in the avoidance classes.

A visit to your local trainer may save you much grief and a large sum of money!