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Rattlesnake Bite Information
The Good Samaritan Regional Poison Center is just a phone call away. Reach us 24 hours a day, everyday, at (602) 253-3334 or 1-800-222-1222. E-mail the poison center at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each year over 80 rattlesnake bites are reported to the Samaritan Regional Poison Center.
Greatly feared and frequently misunderstood, 11 species of rattlesnakes have been identified in Arizona. The most common include the western diamondback, Mojave, sidewinder, black tailed, speckled and tiger.
The bites are rarely fatal but are extremely painful. Caution and common sense should be used when enjoying Arizona's great outdoors. Most bites happen when the victim chooses to disturb or handle the snake. It's far better to walk around or avoid it.
Extra caution should be taken when walking or climbing in the desert or mountains at certain times of the year, especially when the daytime temperature stays above 82 degrees Fahrenheit. During March and April, rattlesnakes become more active and move to areas where they can soak up the sun. During hot summer months, the snakes are more active at night. In August, after the start of the monsoons, the snakes become the most active of the year.
Baby rattlesnakes are typically born the end of July, and are capable of biting and envenomating from birth. A western diamondback baby may measure more than 10 inches at birth.
Rattlesnakes have a flattened, triangular shaped head with a heat sensing device located between the nostril and eye on each side that is used to locate and trail prey. Different species of rattlesnakes con be of different lengths, with the western diamondback growing up to six feet in length.
The loosely attached horny rings (rattles) at the tip of tail are the source of the rattle sound. A baby rattlesnake is born with a pre-button on the end of the tail and only after the first molt at about two weeks do they have a button. An actual rattle does not happen until about three or four months. The shaking of the rattle can serve as a warning but not always: Rattlesnakes can strike without warning or making a sound. They can strike 1/4 to 1/2 of their body length.
Coloring varies by species, but most blend in well with their environments. Usually mottled or banded in shades of tan and brown, rattlesnakes can also be a combination of grayish green, orange, red, bright green, yellow, black or peach.
Signs & Symptoms of a Bite
• Immediate pain or a burning sensation occurs at the site of the bite; fang marks are usually visible
• Victims may experience a metallic or rubbery taste in the mouth
• Significant swelling usually occurs within minutes, and symptoms may progress to weakness, sweating and/or
• Chills, nausea and vomiting
A small percentage of rattlesnake bites are "dry," meaning that the snake has not injected venom. But do not count on being one of the lucky ones: Seek help immediately. Only a doctor can determine if you have a "dry" bite. The venom injected contains several enzymes designed to attack the tissue at the bite site and can cause severe tissue damage. The venom also contains components that cause blood thinning and other effects on the body. The Mojave rattlesnake venom may also contain a neurotoxin that results in severe muscle weakness.
Seek medical attention from a hospital emergency room immediately where you will be evaluated and perhaps be administered antivenin. It is important to get treatment as soon as possible. If you are a great distance from your car or other help, move slowly if necessary to get help. You have time to reach medical care.
• Don't panic: Stay as calm as possible. If bitten on the hand, remove all jewelry immediately before swelling begins.
• Don't apply ice to the bite site or immerse the bite in a bucket of ice.
• Don't use a constricting bond/cloth or tourniquets. Do not restrict blood flow in any manner.
• Don't cut the bite site or try to suck out the venom. Leave the bite site alone!
• Don't use electric shock or stun guns of any kind.
• Don't try to capture the snake to bring to the hospital. Time spent capturing the snake delays arrival at the emergency department, and may result in additional bites.
• Identification of the snake is not necessary for treatment. The physicians treat the symptoms as they occur and modify the antivenom/treatment as needed. Treatment is not snake specific.
If you have a reptile that needs to be relocated please call J&R Reptile Wildlife Rescue/Relocation at 480.585.0148.