Snake Removal Questions
- How fast will you arrive when called?
- What do you with the snakes you catch?
- Is it legal to kill rattlesnakes?
- Why do you charge to capture snakes?
- Will you sell me a rattlesnake?
Rattlesnakes on your property
- Do mothballs keep snakes away?
- What repellents do you recommend?
- Is it true that rattlesnakes won't cross a horse hair rope?
- I want to remove a snake myself. Is a noose tool a good idea?
General questions about snakes in Arizona
- What do you do if you see a rattlesnake on a trail?
- Someone sent a picture of a HUGE rattlesnake killed in my area. Is it real?
- If I am bitten by a rattlesnake, what should I do?
- Can a person move fast enough to dodge a rattlesnake strike?
- Can rattlesnakes climb trees?
- I've heard there are rattlesnakes on Camelback Mountain, is this true?
- Are baby rattlesnakes more dangerous than adults?
- Can rattlesnakes mate with other kinds of snakes and make dangerous hybrids?
- Can you tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of rattle segments?
How fast will you arrive when called?
We will be there as fast as legally possible. We have field agents throughout the valley, and the closest one is dispatched to your location after we gather a little bit of information. This typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes, at the mercy of traffic.
What do you with the snakes you catch?
As per Arizona Game and Fish guidelines, they are released as soon as possible. If you are worried about them coming back; out of over 1,000 rattlesnakes we've relocated over the years, we've not had one customer call to pick up a repeat. Snakes, like all animals, will do their best not to die. Being picked up with tongs, placed into a dark bucket, and going for their first car ride is a scary experience for them. Much as a person might avoid a street where they've been mugged, even if convenient, snakes will avoid places where they've had what seems like a near death experience. Even when working with snakes in the wild, an observer must be very careful not to disturb a snake where it lives - if it is disturbed enough it will abandon its home to find somewhere without so many nosy herpetologists.
Is it legal to kill rattlesnakes?
Unfortunately, it is legal in Arizona to kill a rattlesnake with a valid hunting license. Aside from the fact that we just like the things, killing a snake does very little to actually solve your problem. While of course the snake would no longer be there, a huge portion of bites occur when untrained victims are attempting to catch or kill it. They can be unpredictable, and it's best left to the experts. *ahem*.
Why do you charge to capture snakes?
We believe we are providing a valuable service by using our knowledge and experience to safely relocate rattlesnakes. We realize that, to some, this should be a free service, but respectfully ask that we be fairly compensated for doing a very dangerous job.
Will you sell me a rattlesnake?
Never. Not only is it illegal, but it is not in the best interest for the snake or anyone involved. Please do not inquire.
Do mothballs keep snakes away?
Not at all. One of our field agents actually came to remove a rattlesnake sleeping in a pile of mothballs. While the smell may bother them or disrupt some of their natural behavior, if there are resources around, they will not stop them.
What repellents do you recommend?
We don't recommend any! They don't work and just make your yard smell like a urinal. There are better, natural ways to keep snakes away.
I want to remove a snake myself. Is a noose tool a good idea?
First, thank you so much for being one of the rare people that would rather move a snake to a safe location rather than kill it. Knowing that you obviously care for the wildlife in your area and have a sensible take on how to deal with it, you'll probably want to ditch the noose and pole combo. We get a lot of comments in and about home-made (and a few store-bought) tools that are, basically, a tube with a loop at the end that can snare a snake and move them. Sounds great right? Well, not so great for the snake. They are very fragile animals, tools like this can very easily damage ribs, vertebrae, or cause other unseen issues. The snakes may seem to just slide off after the release, but in some cases, this can be a death sentence, other than just being quite painful. It can also make the situation much more dangerous for yourself, in that rattlesnakes that are improperly supported or in pain will act in an overly defensive manner. I've seen quite a few videos of snare tools grabbing snakes behind the head ... the home owner or fire department guy believes that they are helping, but that snake is not going to survive.
So what do you do? We use and recommend snake tongs - they come in very long versions (52" is great for someone inexperienced). The Gentile Giant version by Midwest Tongs is what we purchase for our own team, and is highly recommended for one simple reason: the wide base and solid build allows for a gentle and effective means of handling snakes. The wide base creates a larger area to support the snake, and when used properly, can very quickly relocate a snake without any damage to those little snakey riblets, or causing undue struggle and risk for the user. So please, if you're a lifelong snare user, consider making the switch to tongs, for both their safety, and yours. Take it from us - we relocate many hundreds of snakes each year.
What do you do if you see a rattlesnake on a trail?
Nothing! Rattlesnakes are just part of living in Phoenix, and often only dangerous to those who choose to "fix" a situation that doesn't need fixing. If you see a snake on a trail, just leave it alone and go around it. Most often, a snake that appears to be stretched across a trail "sunning" is actually being still beccause it has seen you first and doesn't realize that camouflage doesn't work on a trail. As we have learned from years of snake removals and asking residents to keep an eye on the snake until we arrive, many are completely aware of your presence and are just waiting for the "predator" to leave so they can make an escape. If you get out of sight for a minute or two, the snake will likely move on. Make sure to alert others who may be coming down the trail to watch for the snake, and then simply go around it. Remember that rattlesnakes aren't aggressive, but defensive, and won't actively come after you as long as you do not appear to be a threat. Stay well outside of the strike range (about half of the body length, but give it a good 5' or more) and walk around it. In many of the photos that we receive where hikers claim to be trapped or in some "stand off" situation, there are clear opportunities to just go around it, like you would any other hazard on the trail.
Most importantly, if you do see a snake on the trail, prevent idiots from messing with it. Something about a certain gender that starts with "M" causes idiotic behavior when presented with an easy opportunity for self-aggrandizing stories, and there is an irresistible urge to pick up, play with, or catch the snake ... if not throw rocks, sticks, or kill. If you see one of these people doing this kind of thing, please remind them that wildlife should not be disturbed, and if they're unable to resist, perhaps a nice air conditioned gym is more to their taste.
Someone sent a picture of a HUGE rattlesnake killed in my area. Is it real?
Probably not. I get forwarded about every dead snake photo that makes the rounds on the internet, and then some. I've also set up alerts on Google so any time a rattlesnake is mentioned in type anywhere on the internet, we're able to see it. Usually, these stories are indeed real snakes, but the descriptions, stories, locations, and places involved are complete lies. The amazing part (perhaps a psychology grad student out there might pick this up) is how often and how predictable the lies are. Whenever one of these fakes is posted, it gets new life with a 'look what my friend killed'. One could assume that it would be the 'friend' who is the liar, but I have NEVER seen one email, forum post, or news article where the poster claims it to be themself. One would think that someone who takes a photo found on the internet to send around as if it were there own would be enough of a braggart to at least do so in the first person, rather than leave it up to their friends.
As a reference, of if you're wanting to know if that photo is indeed real, would be the blog of David Steen . He does a great job of keeping track of these ridiculous stories when they emerge and RE-emerge a few weeks later with a different story attached to them.
If I am bitten by a rattlesnake, what should I do?
You need to get to a hospital as fast as possible. First, try your best to keep calm and just remember the statistics: in almost every case, you will live. According to the CDC, there are between 7,000-8,000 venomous snake bites in the United States each year, and less than 10 of those die. Of those 10, there may be other health issues that complicate the situation. Keeping calm not only helps you make the right decisions, but keeps your heart-rate down, slowing the venom's progression through the body.
Remove any jewelery to allow for swelling. Keep the bite area below your heart, if possible. Do not cut, suck, or try to bleed venom from the wound. This does not help, and causes additional stress and injury to the area. Do not let anyone try and use a suction device on the wound. A study by Loma Linda University School of Medicine shows that these devices also do not help and can actually make the situation worse. Do not apply a tourniquet. While it is true that a properly applied compression bandage may be of benefit with some bite situations, attempting to tie off the flow of blood can make a bite that may not result any long term damage into an amputation situation or worse. Do not apply ice or home remedies - basically, leave the bite area alone completely.
If you are far from help, out hiking or otherwise, it may be best to send someone for help. If you can get a cell phone signal, call 911 and let them advise on how to proceed. If you cannot call, notify anyone around of the situation and let help come to you. If you are alone, get to a trail and calmly make your way back to where there are people who can help. Do not run - it is important to keep your heart rate down and make your way to other people. Stick to trails so that in the event that you lose conscienceness, people will find you and be able to get help.
Do not try to kill the snake or intact with it further, and insist that others do not try to either. This isn't for the snake's benefit - it is simply a useless action. The antivenin you will receive is made to work for all species in our area. Furthermore, proper identification of a snake is not something that doctors or EMTs will necessarily know how to do. Even those who spend a great deal of time working with rattlesnakes can have difficulty differentiating between a Mojave rattlesnake and a Western Diamondback. Simply remove yourself from the situation and focus on getting help. Further interaction with the snake only puts additional people in harms way.
If you are in a populated area, do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. You may pass out or otherwise become unable to operate a vehicle, making a bad situation worse. Call for help, keep calm and stationary, and let help come to you.
If it is your dog that has been bitten, call an emergency veterinarian as quickly as possible. Some vets recommend giving the dog a small amount of Benedryl, but do not do so without the guidance of whichever vet you are able to get in contact with.
Can a person move fast enough to dodge a rattlesnake strike?
Nope! A rattlesnake's strike is faster than a person would be able to react. By the time your eyes send the signal to the brain, and the order to "move!" goes to the limb, there's not a chance to dodge it. Fortunately, staying outside of a rattlesnake's strike range is pretty easy. If you end you close to one unknowingly, move away as fast as you can.
Can rattlesnakes climb trees?
Sometimes! It doesn't happen very much though. We have seen a handful of rattlesnakes climbing in bushy trees to get over a fence, and know that some species will climb trees in the wild for a variety of reasons. This doesn't mean that you need to worry about them dropping out of the branches, but it does mean that you should keep the bushes near your fence nice and trim.
The speed of the strike can vary due to a number of circumstances. According to on study, the average time a snake takes from a ready position to full extended is just 0.1 seconds, which would be about 136 miles per hour.
RATTLESNAKE STRIKE BEHAVIOR: KINEMATICS, KENNETH V. KARDONG1 ,AND VINCENT L. BEL
I've heard there are rattlesnakes on Camelback Mountain, is this true?
Yes. We have relocated 2 species of rattlesnake from the Camelback area and surrounding mountains - in fact speckled rattlesnakes are quite commonly seen throughout the range. It doesn't mean you will ever see one if you hike along the very busy trails, but you should still keep an eye out as you would anywhere else in the desert.
Are baby rattlesnakes more dangerous than adults?
No they are not. This myth is complicated because some of the reasons people give to explain it are partially true, but do not add up to a baby rattlesnake being a more dangerous animal - not even close.
One reason people give is that baby rattlesnakes are more toxic than adults. This is partially true with some species. The common western diamondback, for example, may have slightly more toxic venom as a baby to target different types of prey (The Venomous Reptiles of Arizona. Lowe, Schwalbe, Johnson). The missing factor here is venom yield, or how much venom is delivered in a bite. The yield delivered by an adult rattlesnake is many times that of a baby, negating any difference in toxicity. A metaphor I use is this: if you are trying to stay as sober as possible, would you rather drink a) a shot of tequila, or b) a gallon of wine? Obviously, a gallon of weak wine would make anyone pretty sick, while a shot of very strong tequila is just to get the night going. The toxicity differences between a baby rattlesnake and an adult are not nearly this extreme, making the notion even more ridiculous.
Another reason given is the idea that baby rattlesnakes do not yet know how much venom to deliver, so they just give it all. The same rationale applies here as before - even a fraction of a full load from an adult will be as much as all that a small baby has. There are many different views on this topic in the herpetological community about the level of consistency at which a rattlesnake of any age injects venom, and why.
Just to wrap this up - even if the venom were much more toxic, even if they always gave a higher venom yield than an adult, they are certainly not more dangerous for one reason: they are tiny. An adult diamondback in Arizona has a strike range of around 2', and half-inch fangs. A baby can strike out about 6 inches with it's little pin pricker fangs. I'd not like to step on either with my boot while hiking, but the outcomes of these scenarios are very different.
Can rattlesnakes mate with other kinds of snakes and make dangerous hybrids?
While it is true that some animals do produce cross-species hybrids in the wild, they have to be fairly similar in form for the animal to actually be born. There are hybrid rattlesnakes out there, such as half mojave and half diamondback weirdos, but they are unable to breed. It is impossible for a rattlesnake to interbreed with a very different kind of snake, like a gophersnake, black snake, or kingsnake, as are sometimes reported. They are too different in form for it to work out. Even in a controlled, captive environment, this could simply never happen.
Can you tell the age of a rattlesnake by the number of rattle segments?
No. This is a popular myth, though it's not at all true. A rattlesnake is born with a single segment, called a "pre-button". The first shed adds to it, making it a "button", and each shed after that for the rest of its life, it will gain a new segment. The number of times that a snake sheds has to do with how fast it is growing, how much it gets to eat, the age of the snake, and other factors. In the first few months of life, a baby snake will shed several times, while at older ages or in cooler environments, it may only shed once. Instead, age can be somewhat determined by the taper of the rattle, or the angle at which each segment is larger than the previous. A snake with a rattle that looks like a triangle is a fairly young snake, probably only 2 or 3 years old. Each segment is larger than the last because the snake is growing a a steady pace, and has not yet lost early rattles. If the rattle is the same thickness from start to end, that is an older snake that has stopped growing long ago.