From our Partners at Friends of Ute Valley Park.
It’s late Spring, and in Ute Valley Park, the rattlesnakes are out and about. Of the three poisonous snakes in Colorado, the ones who inhabit UVP are the Prairie Rattlers. These are the least aggressive of the rattlesnakes in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous.
Because of their coloration, these vipers can often be hard to spot as they blend in with the rocks and the trails, where they can often be found sunning themselves. The first rule of avoiding these venomous creatures is to leave them alone. They don’t want to bite you or your dog, but if they feel threatened, they will defend themselves. Fortunately, they will often “rattle” if you get too close to them, but they don’t always.
Please don’t kill a rattlesnake if you can avoid it. They serve a purpose by eating rats, mice, insects and lizards. They also provide meals for hawks and eagles.
Some precautions you can take:
- It’s best if you do not hike by yourself.
- Stay on the trails. If you see a snake on the trail give it a wide berth or if you have a walking stick, move it off the trail. Don’t try to move a snake using only your hands. Rattlesnakes can strike at a distance of two-thirds of their total body length.
- It’s best to wear high top hiking boots and long pants when hiking. Taking a hiking stick with you is also a good idea.
- Remember that rattlesnakes are afraid of you and will usually move away from you. They don’t see well, but they can interpret sudden movement as a threat.
- Don’t be listening to your iPod. If a snake rattles, you may not hear it.
- Be very careful if you need to step over a rock or log. A rattlesnake could be lurking on the other side.
- Keep dogs on a short lease. After all, it’s the law and a snake would probably take the dog for a predator and strike. Dogs have been bitten by rattlesnakes in UVP.
If you do get bitten by a snake:
- Keep as calm as possible (easily said). Walk, don’t run.
- If you can, call 911 and/or get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence.
- Do not use ice, use a tourniquet, or try to suck out the venom.
- Remove all jewelry, watches and any other constricting clothing near the affected area in case of swelling.
- If it’s a dog that has been bitten, get it to a vet as soon as possible.
By taking some simple precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable hike or walk.