Misinformation alert: The hottest summer months are not the most dangerous time of year for you or your pet to encounter a rattlesnake. Snakes do not come out to “sunbathe” on rocks, “come out of hibernation” or attack you or your pet.
“When it’s 100 degrees, they go dark,” said Cale Morris, venom manager at the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary in North Scottsdale.
“The heat burns them like it burns you,” Morris said. When it’s around 82 degrees at midnight, they move, but they move to find a place to shelter from the approaching sun.
The truth is that the most likely times for a rattlesnake encounter are at night during the hottest summer months and in April and August, he added.
There are 13 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona, the largest variety of rattlesnakes in the United States.
Although a bite is painful and dangerous, the good news is that medical treatment is available and administering it is simple.
“People will try to capture them or kill them and that will delay medical attention,” Morris said. “You get bitten. You go to the emergency room. All emergency rooms have anti-venom and they have plenty of it.
There is only one anti-venom that is an antidote for every poisonous snake in America, a relatively new phenomenon.
“The beauty of it,” Morris said, “is that you don’t have to know what you were bitten by.”
But the same cannot be said for dogs.
“It’s a life or death situation for the dogs,” Morris said. “If a dog gets bitten by a rattlesnake… when he runs up to it and barks and gets bitten on the nose, snout, it swells up and he has trouble breathing, he definitely needs anti-venom . They can die of it.
Veterinarian Dr David Haworth said that while “humans are bitten more often on the hands, arms and ankles”, the location of the dog’s snakebite makes it much more dangerous.
“Because of the extraordinary swelling associated with snake venoms, the closer you get to things like the airways and gastrointestinal tracts, the more urgent the need for intervention,” he said.
For some reason, cats aren’t as susceptible to snakebites. First, says Haworth, because they are much less likely to be bitten due to their size and quick reflexes. And for whatever evolutionary reason, cats are better able to withstand a snakebite.
“The impact of venom on them seems to be less than for dogs,” Haworth said. “Same for horses and even more so for cattle.”
“There are also approaches to demotivate dogs that really like snakes,” says Haworth. “Usually this involves scaring the dog away when he hears a rattle or sees something that looks like a snake.”
Arizona’s population has grown dramatically over the past two decades, but somehow the number of reported snakebites hasn’t increased with it.
“Our averages really haven’t changed,” said Dr. Bryan Kuhn, a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist at the Banner Poison Control Center. “
“If you think about where people travel, Maricopa County has been expanding for quite some time. We’re not really growing, we’re growing,” he said. “It brings residents closer to the edge of where the snakes’ natural habitats are. So intuitively you would expect more bites.
So why hasn’t the number of reported snakebites increased? Cale Morris of the Herpetological Sanctuary credits a targeted and extensive information campaign.
“We have been running education outreach programs for 21 years here in the valley,” he said. “We trained a total of 250,000 people last year through visits and outreach programs. This year will be even more so. »
He also credits an increase in social media activity and Sanctuary’s one million TikTok followers. “It definitely makes a difference,” Morris said.
Dan and Debbie Marchand opened the sanctuary in 2003 when someone illegally had two American alligators in their Phoenix pool, which were rescued by wildlife officers.
With nowhere to take them, wildlife officials called Dan Marchand, a known wildlife enthusiast.
The alligators – named ‘Charlie’ and ‘Lucy’ after comic book characters Peanuts – have been relocated to a shallow wading pool on Marchands Land, two and a half acres of wild Sonoran Desert on North Scottsdale Roads and Dynamite and the Sanctuary was born.
The most unlikely resident of Sanctuary was the result of a prank one friend played on another.
Chuck Simmon was a farmer in northern Arizona, near a place called Pakoon Springs. A friend somewhere across the country thought it would be fun to send Simmons a baby alligator, which he kept and nurtured on his land until 2017.
Having disappeared from sight for a while, Simmons left the alligator for dead when he left his spot, which is now part of Parashant National Monument in the Grand Canyon.
When the Bureau of Land Management stepped in to clean up the overgrown reeds, they discovered Clem, severely malnourished, underweight, and in need of housing.
The BLM called Marchand and the sanctuary cemented its reputation as a favorite spot for rescued reptiles of all kinds. It is currently home to over 200 poisonous snakes, bearded dragons, crocodiles, gila monsters, turtles and a host of other creatures on its 2.5 acres.
“It’s like an animal sanctuary without killing,” Morris said. We weren’t euthanizing things,” Morris said. “We educate people.”