Rattlesnakes in a Heat Wave – What Homeowners Should Know About Snakes In The Summer

Each day in July, 2023 has been above 110˚F with no end in sight. What do the rattlesnakes do?

A common misconception is that reptiles love the sun – the hotter, the better, right? Well, not quite. Like all reptiles, rattlesnakes are ectotherms and get their heat from the environment. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have limits. Just like you in the office when whats-his-name down the row keeps fiddling with the thermostat, rattlesnakes prefer specific temperatures. And more importantly, they can quickly die when they get too hot.

How hot is too hot for a rattlesnake? It depends. Generally, if the body temperature gets above 110˚ for even a little while, a rattlesnake will not survive. With ground temperatures hot enough to cook an egg, a rattlesnake caught out in the open for even a minute mid-day in Arizona will not survive. Aside from overheating, prolonged heat can kill off rattlesnakes by desiccation, literally drying out in the Arizona oven while the monsoon takes its sweet time getting here.

Where do rattlesnakes go when so hot?

Rattlesnakes hide away during the hottest and driest time of year in carefully selected retreats in a behavioral state known as aestivation. Think of it as hibernation to escape the heat instead of cold. Each year, rattlesnakes may use the same aestivation den, alongside other rattlesnakes of multiple species. And just like hibernation, these aestivation dens serve as social hubs, as well as survival escapes.

In the wild, these aestivation dens may be a cave in a drainage wall, a deep crevice in a rocky outcrop, packrat nests, or any number of other deep, thermally protected areas. But near developed areas, an even greater resource exists: backyards.

Openings to the foundation, cracks in the concrete leading under the deck, the shaded base pad under pool pump equipment, and more can be ideal aestivation dens for groups of rattlesnakes. Even better, almost all backyards provide easy sources of water. Combine all of this with dense, well-watered lantana or rosemary, and the perfect rattlesnake summer sanctuary is made.

If you find a rattlesnake in the yard right now, it’s possible it has been there awhile.

These Speckled Rattlesnakes are resting a short distance from their aestivation den and will retreat once the sun heats the area. This is a similar situation to aestivation dens found at homes, where homeowners may encounter them on the patio a short distance from the actual den.

“But it’s a dry heat”

Don’t be fooled by this favorite statement of visitors from wetter climates. We’re not talking about feeling sweaty and uncomfortable while you eat BBQ – dry heat kills.

Moisture loss is a significant danger to rattlesnakes when it’s so hot and dry outside. Simply breathing is dangerous, as every molecule of water lost from the body won’t be replaced until it falls from the sky. Any source of sustained water can and will attract rattlesnakes and other wildlife. If there is deep cover nearby to wait out the day until the next opportunity to drink, it makes an irresistible resource.

A group of rattlesnakes I found living under a leaky AC unit behind our home.

For homeowners, now is the time to review the property. Something as simple as a dripping hose or irrigation line that’s a bit too generous may be an oasis bringing venomous snakes to the yard. Eliminate any sources of water possible. View the property as critical habitat, and make careful decisions. If a rattlesnake is spotted few times a year near that over-watered natal plum, it’s time for some hard decisions about that plant.

What happens to rattlesnakes that are relocated when it’s so hot?

This statement doesn’t exactly make us popular, but it’s the truth. Do not call the fire department or the local security guard to relocate snakes, especially when it’s this hot. Even if the fact the snake will likely die isn’t reason enough, a potentially more dangerous situation can be the result. It doesn’t matter who: call a professional with deep snake knowledge. Here is why:

Homeowners are finding rattlesnakes in entryways or in a corner along the back patio and calling for relocation. The trick is, however, that these situations are usually not new. If a rattlesnake is in a yard right now, there are two scenarios that are most likely:

  1. The rattlesnake has been aestivating on the property or immediately adjacent and is being discovered by chance after weeks of undetected behavior.
  2. The rattlesnake was displaced by construction. Or, with increased frequency, botched relocation by the fire department or under-experienced relocator.

Rattlesnakes are often found in small groups aestivating in backyards. When we are called to catch one, we can usually locate the aestivation den, where we look to see if there are more. The homeowner is then educated on what is happening, and how the den can be addressed to prevent future, similar encounters. In these instances, the snake itself is not the issue, but a symptom of a provided resource. Usually, these can be fixed relatively easily.

Rattlesnake encounters in the summer that are due to construction of unexperienced relocation are a more complicated matter, unfortunately. While it is a great thing that there is an increased will out there to not kill rattlesnakes and have them relocated instead, the details matter greatly. If a rattlesnake is captured by the fire department and moved to a nearby bush or released to open ground, one of two things happen: the snake dies, or it panics and manages to escape to the nearest cover. This can be shade at the neighbors’ house, back to the original location, or any number of potentially dangerous situations. Rattlesnakes that are able to behave naturally can often coexist for a lifetime without conflict with humans by careful evasion, but all bets are off when they are forced into a cover-or-die situation.

We are currently seeing a lot of activity on our snake removal hotline. Rattlesnakes and other wildlife are having a tough time in this heat, forcing them to take desperate measures to survive. This increase of conflict is something that can be resolved by working with the natural behavior of the snake. This means that snakes that are captured for relocation must be released directly into a suitable replacement aestivation den. This also means that the individual relocating the snake needs to be able to identify aestivation microhabitat.

Rattlesnake found while doing a snake removal

This Western Diamondback Rattlesnake was found by a snake relocator while searching for a suitable aestivation den to relocate a rattlesnake found at a home. This snake is a clue that the right release site is nearby. This careful release site selection is essential during the summer.

How to keep rattlesnakes out of the yard during the summer

The best way to keep snakes out of the yard during the hot, dry summer months is to reduce critical resources as much as possible. When it is this hot, rattlesnakes aren’t traveling around like they would be during the spring and fall, so the situations where they are found. This means rattlesnake encounters at homes are much more predictable and, therefore, avoidable.

Here are some things that can be done in a single weekend that can significantly reduce the chances of a summer rattlesnake den in the yard:

  1. Do a sweep of the property for unnecessary water sources. This means fixing the leaky hose, cleaning up the outdoor dog bowl area, and checking on landscaping irrigation and drip lines to make sure they’re in good shape.
  2. Watch areas of AC condenser run-off. You may be able to fix these situations by placing a metal can under them to prevent the ground from getting wet, and allow faster evaporation.
  3. It’s time to get rid of those overgrown, over-watered lantana and rosemary bushes. They come standard with every home in Arizona, but consider native plants that require less water and are less likely to attract rattlesnakes and their prey.
  4. Look into snake fencing as an option to physically prevent entry.
  5. Find and fill any cracks and openings to the foundation of the home and other buildings. Any access to crawl spaces, flashing, under pavement and the driveway, or the foundation can become rattlesnake dens in the summer.
  6. Carefully check seldom-visited sections of the yard: specifically pool pump areas and air conditioning units. These spots are usually hidden away and provide easy, private retreats for rattlesnakes and other animals.
  7. Flood and destroy rodent burrows as they are found.

By this time, when rattlesnakes have already been at their summer retreats for several weeks, it’s more productive to prepare for what comes next: the monsoon activity, where encounters will be at the highest rate of the year.

For more information about how you can make your yard less rattlesnake friendly, take a look at our guide to keeping rattlesnakes away.

What happens to rattlesnakes when the monsoon comes?

Once the monsoon rain comes, several events are kicked off.

First, the abundant ambient moisture and access to water relieve some of the survival pressure. Rattlesnakes will no longer be forced to hide away, meaning they can resume moving, hunting, and other activities. Rattlesnakes encountered in backyards will be less likely to be long-term residents. Aestivation dens are largely abandoned for the year for many species.

Often this is when rattlesnakes shed their skins, too. The moisture can start the shedding process, during which many rattlesnakes remain hidden away for a period of time, regardless of the nicer conditions outside. However, once they shed, they’re off to hunt and more.

Next, it’s time for babies! The moisture kicks off the birthing season. Rattlesnakes either birth in place, or move to special places where babies will be born, called rookeries. Depending on the species, the timing and location of this event varies. For Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, which make up the bulk of rattlesnake encounters with homeowners, this can be about anywhere with adequate cover.


Questions and Answers about Summer Rattlesnake Activity:

Can I use a garden hose to move a rattlesnake away while it’s this hot?

You can, but it is likely a temporary solution. Rattlesnakes found in the yard right now are likely aestivating nearby, and will remain in the area until they can leave after the monsoon rain brings relief. Also, make sure the water isn’t too hot by spraying it to the side for a few seconds.

Are rattlesnakes more likely to be found indoors during this time?

Yes, but it’s still a very remote possibility. Even though indoors is obviously cooler, very few rattlesnake removal calls are inside homes during this time of year. The majority of rattlesnake in-home calls we respond to are due to doors being left open in the Spring and Fall, which is not an issue when it is above 110˚F outside.

Do rattlesnakes climb trees and shrubs to get away from the hot ground?

Rattlesnakes are often found up off the ground in bushes outside of their aestivation dens when it is this hot outside. A bit of airflow can help a snake keep cool, and they seem to take advantage of it.

How often do we find rattlesnakes that have died from the heat?

In our research of rattlesnakes living in urban islands, it is not uncommon to find rattlesnakes that have died during the hot and dry foresummer. This can be exacerbated by disturbance, such as stress from visitation or poorly performed relocation. An event as simple as a short delay from overnight location back to the den can mean death.

Am I attracting rattlesnakes if I provide water for generally preferable wildlife, such as rabbits and birds?

If this is being done in an area where rattlesnakes can occur: absolutely. Not only by providing water, but attracting prey animals as well. If there’s also an area the rattlesnakes can escape to during the day, it’s an ideal rattlesnake situation.

Where do wild rattlesnakes find water during the heat?

For the most part, they don’t. They are forced into a state of preservation, waiting for the monsoon rain to come. Others may find water at springs, rivers and streams, cattle tanks, and other sources of year-round water. But for many rattlesnakes, this simply isn’t an option.

Can excessive heat cause negatively affect the reproductive success of rattlesnakes?

Yes. Conditions of prolonged heat and drought are difficult to survive for any age of rattlesnake, with newborns being especially susceptible. In the summer of 2020, during a long period without rain and excessive heat, we observed that speckled rattlesnakes more often gave birth at aestivation dens rather than move to typical locations. This was mirrored in birthing events of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes and others, giving birth in less-than-ideal situations. While these effects aren’t well documented, our observations and anecdotal experience with birthing in urban situations show, essentially: panic.

What do rattlesnakes do on hot ground or pavement when it’s this hot outside?

They die. This is why it is avoided at all costs, and it’s lethal to them when the fire department dumps them into a bush rather than relocate to a suitable area.

Are there any repellents that can be used to keep rattlesnakes from spending the summer in my cooler, wetter backyard?

Unfortunately there are no snake repellents on the market that will keep snakes of any species away, despite claims. The effective alternatives are a combination of habitat and resource reduction and, where applicable, snake fence installation.

Do rattlesnakes mate when it’s this hot?

Rattlesnakes can court and mate at any time of year, but typically the seasons for doing so are in the spring and fall, depending on species.

Is it ok to leave water our for rattlesnakes and other wildlife?

Yes it is! Just be sure that it is clean and does not become a disease vector. Also understand that doing so will indiscriminately invite wildlife to the area, and it’s not possible to pick and choose. Leaving water out for birds and bunnies is the same as doing so for rattlesnakes.

Are there specific scents or chemicals that can be applied to deter rattlesnakes? How about plants?

There are currently no products, operating either by scent or otherwise, that will effectively deter rattlesnakes and would be legally and ethically feasible.

The rumors about plants such as rosemary, lemongrass, mint, and other “snake-repellent” plants are just local mythology. Ironically, some of these, such as rosemary, provide deep ground cover that can actually attract rattlesnakes.

Does the application of lava rock, gravel or other small rocks deter rattlesnakes?

While these materials do not directly deter rattlesnakes, they may provide some protection in some areas simply by being hot ground cover. However, using these materials specifically for rattlesnake deterrent purposes would not be advisable. Remember that rattlesnakes live in very hot, rough environments. Using rocks, even sharp rocks like lava rock, would not have an effect.

How often do rattlesnakes need to drink?

If given an opportunity, they can drink every day. However, they are very efficient and many ways of preserving moisture through their behavior and physiology, and can go for several months without a drink if they must.

What can I do to help the rattlesnakes without causing unintended danger (to either them or me)?

This may seem like a non-answer, but simply having the attitude that rattlesnakes should be kept alive and are important wildlife is an important node contributing to changing culture. Perhaps the best thing someone can do, if they are aware of the potential risks associated and are able and willing to communicate as needed to visitors and others, is to simply leave the rattlesnakes in place.

At my own home, for example, we have discovered an aestivation den of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes hiding out under the AC unit behind the house. It’s not in an area with immediate concern, but we know it’s there and make sure we behave appropriately. Rather than relocate these, we will allow them to stay there for the remainder of the aestivation period, then will likely repair the leaky AC drip that has caused the situation. We know there are several nearby and suitable aestivation sites in the immediate area, so loss of this one will not have negative consequences for these snakes.

Rattlesnake spring emergence – ultimate guide for homeowners

In the past few days, I’ve been to a multiple homes to catch rattlesnakes in garages. That’s normal and right on time. Which brings up the topic: when do rattlesnakes start moving again, and what should homeowners expect?

When will rattlesnakes come back? Our predictions, based on 11 years of relocation hotline activity:

Early February (you are here): Rattlesnakes will start to “stage”, or move closer to the entrance of, their winter dens. We will start to receive calls to remove small groups of rattlesnakes from garages, storage closets, sheds, and other out-of-the-way structures. Rattlesnake removal calls will frequently be multiple animals.

Late February: Rattlesnakes will start to appear out in the open near their selected dens. Garage removals will be more common. However, there will be an increase of calls to pool pumps, courtyards, and homes with rip rap and rock pile erosion control.

Early March: Snakes will start to make short movements from dens to hunt, drink, and engage in social behavior. They will be highly visible on the surface with peak activity occurring mid-morning before returning to the den or other nearby staging area. Mating activity is high, and multiple snake removal calls will be common.

Late March: Rattlesnake sightings will become common as they leave dens entirely. Peak activity will be between 3pm and 5pm.

April: Very high rattlesnake activity and sightings will be common. At this point they have entirely left the dens and sightings are more likely to be random encounters.

New! Rattlesnake Activity Forecast

We have a brand new Rattlesnake Activity Forecast tool! It’s based on real-time snake removal hotline activity. You can also check your zip code to see what kind of activity has happened in your area in the past.


Other good rattlesnake safety stuff to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t worry. This is totally normal, even February sightings (don’t listen to the local news about “coming out early” stories).
     
  2. If you’re a hiker or outdoorsy type, you’re still not likely to see a rattlesnake in February. Be more watchful and aware in March, however. 
     
  3. Now is the best time to get to any maintenance or prevention activities you have on your to-do list. Landscaping, debris removal, fixing the snake fence, having the dog trained … get it done before the snakes show up.
     
  4. Rattlesnakes often den in the garage. If you are using these last mild-weather days to get to “that” side of the garage, use extra caution.

Educating yourself is the best way to stay safe and feel better about the whole situation

As with most things, fear of rattlesnakes is mostly in our heads. Not the fear itself of course, that’s a real thing, but most of what we believe about rattlesnakes as a culture is simply false. Down to the idea that they are aggressive, or territorial (in the way that people use the word) and more, most of us just haven’t had an opportunity to learn factual information.

If you fear rattlesnakes, spend an afternoon going through these resources and watch what happens 🙂

Videos of early-spring rattlesnake captures and info:

The spring emergence of rattlesnakes is a big topic with homeowners and hikers – obviously we’ve discussed this in the past quite a lot! Here are some of those articles that can help make sense of it all.

What can “snow birds” do to keep rattlesnakes away?

Arizona’s perfect weather in the shoulder seasons makes it an ideal place to spend the winter for seasonal residents. Affectionally referred to locally as “snow birds”, each year, they come and go. With their return to roost in the fall come the flurry of rattlesnake removal calls.

What do rattlesnakes do when we’re away?

Rattlesnakes make use of unoccupied homes.

One of the apparently largest factors in rattlesnake activity (or lack of it) is simply your presence. Just our activity on the property can alter their behavior so they take greater care to avoid meeting us.1 So when you leave, it’s to be expected that wildlife will quickly move to reclaim the space. Even a few months can make quite a difference. We have learned this from 10 years of rattlesnake removals and working with property managers – a unoccupied home can greatly affect the chances of future rattlesnake encounters.

So what can we do to reduce our chances of having rattlesnakes move in?

What can you do to keep rattlesnakes and other wildlife from squatting on the property while you’re away? Aside from the easy stuff (covered here in our 5 Things you can do right now to see fewer rattlesnakes guide), there are a number of things you can do both before you leave, while you’re away, and prior to your return.

Before you leave:

Rattlesnake Fence Install
Get preventative barriers in place before you go.
  1. Physical barriers are the best bet. Get rattlesnake fencing installed. If you already have it, make sure that it’s in top form and there are no holes, gaps, or damage that needs attention.
  2. Get rid of any debris – piles of construction stuff, roof tiles, those bricks by the side of the house, or deflated pool toys, etc.
  3. Ditch the lantana! Get to any last-minute landscaping choices before you leave. The fewer places snakes can hide, the better.
  4. Fix it! Repair any holes or gaps in the building, foundation, flashing, grill islands, or anywhere else that could become a summer home for snakes.
  5. Avoid making a cave. Make sure the garage is sealed up tight and in great condition.

While you’re away:

Regular activity in an area helps keep snakes away.
  1. Keep up on maintenance. This might cost some money, but making sure the services to maintain the yard are still in place can help keep rattlesnake activity away. A well-maintained yard that’s occasionally visited by people is less attractive than yards that are not.
  2. Get it checked out. Have someone knowledgeable about wildlife come do an inspection mid-way through your absence to identify any potentially problematic areas before they fully develop. You can also just ask a neighbor or a property manager to walk the property.

Before you return:

A well-maintained property is less likely to have rattlesnakes in int.
  1. Have the yard inspected. A few days before you come back, it may be a good idea to have a property inspection performed to make sure that any snakes that may have moved in while you were away can be found and removed.
  2. Do a once-over maintenance. Even though you may have keep the landscapers and pool guys coming the entire time, it’s a good idea to do a final touch-up just before you arrive. Rather than waiting until you get there, if you can get this done in advance, that will help eliminate the chances of displaced rattlesnake encounters.
  3. Read up on local snakes. Many of our snow bird residents actually come from those far-off summer destinations, so knowledge of the native wildlife is still a work in progress. During that long drive (passengers!) or wait at the airport for your return, brush up on knowledge of what may live in your yard and how to identify it.

Once you return:

Look for any visitors who may have moved in over the summer.
  1. Walk the property. While everyone is unloading the car, get right to it: walk the entire property and do a check to see if anyone else is there. If you do find a snake, call to have it relocated ASAP.
  2. Be on guard. For a week or so after you come home, be more cautious than normal and make be aware that the new activity in the area may change the behavior of wildlife, including rattlesnakes. That also goes for the return of your neighbors.
  3. Check the fence! Make sure that your rattlesnake fence is still tight and without damage. Rodents and other animals can sometimes dig or create problems even while you’re gone, so do the same inspection you did before you left to make sure it’s still good to go.
  4. Get to the big maintenance. For which items to focus on and lay out your time, refer to our How To Keep Snakes Away From Your Home – The Ultimate Guide
  5. Jump in the pool! This has nothing to do with snakes, but you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while so go for it.

Welcome back! Keep the education going.

The more you know, the safer your yard will be. Not only will you be better equipped to make your yard less attractive to snakes, but your behavior if you do see one will be better. Here’s a rather long presentation full of information that would be a good once-over when you get back to help you feel better about the whole situation.


  1. Meghan Beale, Stephane Poulin, Craig Ivanyi, Gabriel Blouin-Demers 2016.  Anthropomorphic Disturbance Affects Movement and Increases Concealment in Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox) Journal of Herpetology, Vol. 50, No. 2, 211-221, 2016.

Wildflower Bloom Means More Rattlesnake Encounters, But Not For the Reasons You’d Think

Going out to photograph Arizona’s spectacular wildflower display is irresistable! The entire desert is beginning to bloom. As more people travel into the desert to see flowers, more people will have rattlesnake encounters.

The weather is perfect for hiking. It’s also perfect for snakes to move. Wildflower photographers may cross paths with rattlesnakes that are trying to complete their springtime tasks. Is this something to worry about? Not really.

Sidewinder rattlesnake in flowers
Sidewinder in the flowers.

More People + Same Number of Snakes = More Snake Encounters

If you’re seeing an increase in snake photographs on Facebook and Instagram, it doesn’t mean that there are more snakes than usual. It just means that there are more people outside. Snakes don’t want to see people, but they need to use this valuable time before temperatures rise. Rattlesnakes will seem more active because more people are accidentally encountering them during the snakes’ normal springtime behavior.

Rattlesnakes don’t have a passion for photographing flowers, but they do love springtime. It’s the time of the year when they begin taking short trips away from their dens to hunt, mate, thermoregulate, and more. Basically, the more Instagram-addicted people are out there taking yoga pose pics with the flowers, the more snake encounters there will be, even if the number of snakes is exactly the same.

Speckled rattlesnake under a plant.
Speckled rattlesnake underneath a plant.

Hikers and photographers may interrupt rattlesnakes travelling across trails. In these situations, the snake might choose to freeze and blend into their surroundings. Snakes don’t realize that their camouflage doesn’t work on open paths.

Snakes see people as predators and don’t want to be eaten, so they might coil or “stand up” in a defensive pose. Rattlesnakes (and several species of nonvenomous snakes) may rattle their tail to scare you away. In most cases, the rattlesnake will retreat when it feels safe enough to do so.

Rattlesnakes may also be encountered while they’re basking. They can use vegetation as partial cover. The combination of shade and sunlight helps them achieve the perfect temperature. They generally bask at the edge of rocks, bushes, dried brush and other plants.

They may be hunting in those areas as well. An increase in flowers can encourage rodents to run around gathering food. Rattlesnakes are hungry after winter brumation and would love a tasty rodent snack.

Does this mean that you should stay inside? Not at all. Go out and enjoy the flowers!

Western diamondback rattlesnake hiding in grass
Western diamondback rattlesnake hiding in the grass.

How to stay rattlesnake safe during the flower bloom:

Rattlesnakes do not want to encounter people. We look like giant predators to them. This is why they act defensively towards us. They will not chase you and they cannot jump.

Here are several rattlesnake safety tips for wildflower photographers:

  • Stay on the trails.
  • Don’t put your feet anywhere that you can’t clearly see.
  • Don’t reach where you can’t see.
  • Wear real shoes, not flip flops.
  • Don’t let small children run ahead where you can’t see the trail.
  • Keep your dogs on a leash so you can control them if a rattlesnake is seen.
  • Look ahead of you when walking.
  • Do not wear headphones or listen to loud music.

If you encounter a rattlesnake during your adventures:

  • Move quickly away from the snake. You do not need to move slowly.
  • Do not attempt to hold, touch or harm the snake.
  • Let people around you know that the snake is on the trail. As soon as the snake feels safe (usually when there aren’t people in sight), it will generally run away.

That’s it! Keep the same rattlesnake safety habits you would any time of year, and remember to take all those stories and photos of rattlesnakes you’re sure to see with a grain of salt.
If you are in one of the Phoenix Mountain Parks, please report your rattlesnake sighting to Rattlesnake Solutions. Your sightings are very important part of our study of rattlesnakes living in urban areas.

Rattlesnake research in the Phoenix parks.
Rattlesnake research is ongoing in the Phoenix Parks.

Why February is the best time to have a snake fence installed.

There are a lot of factors that can affect the decision to protect a property with a snake fence. Perhaps the least-considered of the bunch is the time of year when it’s done. Here’s a little secret that we’ve uncovered after leading the charge rattlesnake protection this last decade: February is the sweet spot for getting a snake fence installed.

Here’s why:

Rattlesnakes aren’t very active in February.

Prime rattlesnake activity starts in early March (or so). That means that if last year’s backyard rattlesnake encounters were the last straw, your window of having pre-snake season rattlesnake fencing installed is getting narrow.

While it is true that rattlesnakes are somewhat surface-active every month of the year, they aren’t yet traveling far from their winter dens in February. After winter ends, they’re hungry, looking for mates, and have a relatively short time to get a lot of life requirements taken care of before the brutal Arizona fore-summer puts them down for estivation. March and April are the busiest time of year for our snake removal hotline, which means you can opt out of all of that rattlesnake-in-the-yard nonsense before things get busy.

sleepy rattlesnakes aren't moving yet

Rattlesnake Solutions isn’t very active in February, either. Wait times to get on the installation schedule are at their lowest in February.

Out of sight, out of mind, or so the story of rattlesnakes in the minds of Phoenix residents seems to be. When the rattlesnakes largely disappear from view in the desert, the focus of Rattlesnake Solutions is in a lot of behind the scenes work – managing and refining our snake prevention services, improving how we do it, evaluating data and snake activity trends throughout the year, and most of all education.

As things warm up at the end of January, however, some important things happen. The first rattlesnakes of the year start showing up, and, now that the holidays are over, everyone’s “things to do next year” list comes off the fridge and into the forefront. Based on years of data and market trends: most people, even homeowners who are 100% on getting a snake fence, wait until they have another encounter before pulling the trigger.

Right now, the odds of finding open spaces on a rattlesnake fence installation calendar the highest all year. Cool daytime temperatures, too, mean that it can be installed faster than in those 110F days.

Supply and demand: slower times mean the best prices on snake proofing.

Everyone knows that to get the best prices on plane tickets, you book 6 weeks before, on a Wednesday … or is it 5 weeks? Something like that … getting the best price on products and services is often all about timing. In the case of rattlesnake fencing, January and February are often the best, fastest, and cheapest time to do it.

The reason? Availability of the primary material used in effective snake fencing: steel. (off topic, but if you’re looking at a snake fence estimate using plastic, throw it in the trash and keep shopping). As things heat up and rattlesnakes start showing up in backyards across Arizona, our demands on local steel suppliers goes up, and costs do accordingly. If any increases in price have ever happened, they’ve been in the summer during peak snake activity. In January and February, prices are at their lowest, and there are often some really great specials and discounts available (just ask).

By taking care of rattlesnake protection before rattlesnakes become a problem, you’re not only prepared for the upcoming rattlesnake season, but it can get done faster than any other time of year.

For more information about snake fencing in Arizona, or just any questions you have about rattlesnakes and protecting your home, we’re here to help.

Is your home a rattlesnake den? How to stay rattlesnake-free this winter.


It’s October, and rattlesnakes are as active as ever. They’re moving around a lot right now, getting in some last meals, mating, and general rattlesnake “housekeeping” as they get ready for cooler months. This is also the time of year they begin to move back towards where they will spend the winter. Unfortunately for many homeowners in Arizona, that means your house or property. Rattlesnakes can and do overwinter in and around buildings, so how can you prevent your property from being a rattlesnake den?

Before going into the details, I should specify that this information may really only be completely relevant in the Sonoran Desert portions of Arizona, particularly Phoenix and Tucson. It’s also a lot of good general advice, but be aware that the further you are from saguaros, the less accurate it may be for your situation. The rattlesnake species that most-often comes into conflict with people is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. They’re generalists that make good use of the desert landscaping found at most homes on the outskirts of Phoenix and Tucson, and the species that I’ll be referring to in this article as “rattlesnake”, despite the several other species that also occur in these areas.

How rattlesnakes den for the winter in the Sonoran Desert is a bit different than in other parts of the country, or even other parts of their range within Arizona. In the lower, hot desert, it just doesn’t get cold enough in the winter to create a need for a lot of fuss over finding a perfect den. You may be familiar with photographs online of dozens or hundreds of rattlesnakes pouring out of a hole in the ground, usually with some silly comments. These are actual and accurate photographs, but from cooler climates where rattlesnakes may have fewer preferable areas to select from, during the longer and colder winter.

Here, where we may only get a handful of nights each year with sub-freezing temperatures, sun exposure everywhere, and countless rock piles and tunnels to choose from, snakes have it easy. This means that they tend to den in smaller groups, perhaps only a few individuals, or even alone. While some larger dens do certainly exist in some places, with 20 or more individuals, this is not as common as the smaller sites. Other species, like Speckled Rattlesnakes and Tiger Rattlesnakes, tend to den in a general area rather than a particular crack year-after-year, so avoiding the creation of an accidental den can be challenging. A primary driving force for choosing a den site appears to be the preservation of moisture, rather than sun exposure and access to heat [Hamilton, Nowak, Western North American Naturalist 69(3):319-328. 2009 ]. That means that a rattlesnake den in much of Arizona isn’t just some high rocky hilltop, but can be really anywhere at all. They may use different dens in different years, and are generally less predictable than in cooler climates.

Do rattlesnakes den at homes?

The Rattlesnake Solutions relocation hotline largely stops ringing in mid-November, after the snakes have completed ingress (moving into the den area they’ve selected). After that, we still get calls, but they are of a different nature – they are denning rattlesnakes. The places where we have found them over the past decade and the conditions they appear to be drawn to are consistent enough that we have a good idea of which features at a home are likely to become a rattlesnake den without some consideration.

These are the most common places where we see rattlesnake dens in the winter, and how to keep it from happening to you:

1. Rattlesnake Den in the Garage

To a rattlesnake a garage is just an insulated cave with some golf bags and fishing gear. By far, the most common rattlesnake den situation we find at homes in Arizona are storage areas in the garage. Typically, they are discovered in the early Springtime once the snakes tend to move towards the front of the garage, and are found coiled in the corner near the door. Upon inspection, these are almost always snakes that have apparently spent the entire winter in the garage (the homeowners usually don’t like this news).

They tend to use areas where boxes or other storage comes in close contact with the wall. This description probably fits most garages (including mine), but long-term storage with poorly-sealed boxes seems to be the most common and useful situation for rattlesnakes. Cardboard boxes that contain holiday decorations seem to be commonly used as a dens, as they provide some cover and additional insulation.

What can you do to keep your garage from becoming a rattlesnake den?

  1. Make sure the garage door is in good shape and tightly sealed, especially at the edges and corners.
  2. Fix any cracks in concrete and vents that lead to outside areas.
  3. Keep the garage door closed as much as possible, even during the day, especially during the ingress period of October-November.
  4. Keep the garage clean and move long-term storage to other areas.
  5. Close access to any built-in closets, water heater areas, equipment rooms, etc.
  6. Watch for signs of rodents (droppings, nesting material) and get rid of them if rodents are found.

2. Rattlesnake Den in the Pool Pump Area

A swimming pool is an extremely common feature at most homes in the Phoenix area, and it’s no surprise that rattlesnakes will make use of the often-overlooked pool pump and equipment area. These pump and filter areas are usually closed off and alongside the home, or otherwise separated from the rest of the yard. They’re also less often-visited than other areas of the property, so can get a “pass” on rodent activity and are generally less tidy than other parts of an even manicured yard.

In the winter, a common place for rattlesnakes to den is under the concrete base of the filter unit or other pump equipment. Rodents and erosion, along with the generally-higher humidity near the pump equipment and vibration, create caves and spaces that rattlesnakes apparently love. Each year, we receive numerous calls to relocate multiple rattlesnakes from situation.

What can you do to keep your pool pump and filter area from becoming a rattlesnake den?

  1. Control the rodent population and make sure that any tunnels or digging is addressed immediately.
  2. Keep the area clean and do not store anything there that isn’t necessary. Any clutter, buckets, bricks, and other things that tend to be stored in these areas can increase your chances of seeing a rattlesnake here.
  3. Seal the entrance to the pool equipment area with a gate, then have rattlesnake fencing installed onto it.
  4. Fix any cracks in the concrete pad and eliminate any spaces possible in the surrounding walls.

3. Rattlesnake den in decorative rocks

The third most common situation where we find rattlesnakes denning are rock piles and rip rap placed as decoration on the property. In many of these situations, the rock piles are placed in areas where they also come into contact with the surrounding landscaping. If this is done in a particular way, it can create a perfect situation for rattlesnakes looking to hide for the winter. More specifically, rosemary bushes or other large, low cover that tends to create deep leaf-litter that is allowed to grow over the top of rock piles, where the rocks are the size of a cantaloupe or larger, and are piled to a depth of more than 20″. If there is water nearby (drip system, pool, etc), this is even better for the snakes. If this all exists on a slope or at the edge of a wash, you should be surprised if rattlesnakes are not using it already. Each year we capture rattlesnakes in these situations, and more often than not, there is evidence to show that the snakes have been using these areas for a long time.

What can you do to keep your landscaping and decorative frock from becoming a rattlesnake den?

  1. Keep plants and bushes trimmed back from the edge of the rock, and never let it grow over the top of or through the rock pile itself.
  2. Make sure that decorative rock piles do not have deep spaces and are as shallow as possible.
  3. Watch larger boulders for rodent activity and tunnels that may create spaces under them. If tunnels are found, use a garden hose to flood them and destroy them from the inside-out.
  4. Seal spaces and crevices between larger rocks with concrete (or similar) so that access to the interior, protected area is eliminated.
  5. Consider removing any plants or rocks in the property that you do not feel adds to the appeal to the property, or that you’re “on the fence” about keeping. Generally and unfortunately, a boring yard is a safe yard. Be sure not to add superfluous features.

4. Rattlesnake den under the home

The fourth, and most common in many areas, place where rattlesnake dens are frequently found are underneath homes themselves. This is typically most common in areas where manufactured homes are numerous, where the aluminum or wood skirting that lines the space under the home is easily breached by rodents and general wear and tear. In larger homes with a solid foundation, the situation can be even more difficult to solve, since the crawl spaces leading to where the snakes den can be difficult for a tall snake relocator (ahem) to fit into. We are often alerted to these dens by Air Conditioning repair technicians, who see a shed skin and refuse to crawl any further until it gets checked out. Fortunately, even though this can be relatively common and difficult to handle, it is relatively easy to prevent.

How can I keep my house from becoming a rattlesnake den?

  1. Seal all cracks in the foundation, no matter how small or minor they appear to be. Even cracks that are too small for a rattlesnake to fit through may widen over time, and it is best to fix them as they are found.
  2. Watch for any signs of erosion or digging by rodents at the edge of the home. If these holes go under the foundation, you’ve created an insulated and safe cave for rattlesnakes to use. Have a zero tolerance policy for any rodent activity at the base of the foundation.
  3. Be aware of spaces in the flashing or spaces at the corners, pillars, and other joints where the stucco frame meets the foundation. Modern home construction seems to be less-than-concerned that the house is sealed properly. We commonly see gaps in corners, even completely open overhangs that can lead up and over the foundation itself or into the walls of the home. Do whatever needs to be done to fix this.

5. Rattlesnake den under the shed

A place where we regularly find rattlesnakes denning on a property is under a backyard shed. These structures are almost always less-maintained than the home itself, and have a variety of foundation types, even just plopped onto the dirt on a few cinderblocks. Unfortunately for us, these are perfect conditions for rodents, and the predators that eat them. Rattlesnakes can move into the spaces under the shed and be relatively undisturbed. Of all of the den conditions described here, backyard sheds seem to offer the most long-term refuge from winter cold, according to the number of shed skins and even dead snakes that we find there. Sometimes rodents even dig up into the shed itself and find additional cover opportunity in the stuff stored in there, which usually gets even less attention than boxes stored in the garage.

How do I keep rattlesnake from making a den under my shed?

  1. Watch for any rodent activity and do what you can to eliminate it.
  2. Put the shed on a foundation or support structure of some sort that does not allow gaps and easy access.
  3. Use heavy materials and avoid things like particle-board, cheap plywood, and things that a rodent can easily get through.
  4. Schedule a yearly cleanout of the shed itself to keep things clean and review items to possibly cut down on the amount of clutter stored inside.
  5. Keep anything that can be eaten out of there – birdseed, dogfood, grass seed, and other edibles are often kept in these sheds, and can attract rodents (and rattlesnakes as a result).
  6. If the shed is build near a wall, make sure to clean out the space between the wall and prevent landscaping debris from piling up there.

6. Rattlesnake den in the grill island

This will be the last potential rattlesnake den situation that is covered here. It’s a little bit less common than the others, but its nature and tendency to put sandal-wearing or bare feet in close proximity to rattlesnake fangs makes it worth noting. At many homes in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas, a stand-alone grill island is a standard feature. The trouble is, all those burger drippings and hot dogs that slip through the cracks can attract rodents, and once again, rattlesnakes who are looking for them. These islands usually have an access door on one side, and at least one vent on the rear side. Some also have inlets for propane stored elsewhere, or even extend into other features like a bench. The construction of these islands is usually flimpsy and tends to fall apart at the corners relatively quickly, leaving easy access for hungry rodents and one-stop-shopping for rattlesnakes in search of a place to hide away for the winter.

How do I keep a rattlesnake den from forming under my grill?

  1. Keep the access door closed at all times and make sure that it latches tightly.
  2. Cover vents with 1/4″ steel hardware cloth mesh.
  3. Completely seal all cracks that may appear in the stucco, and make sure that any interior openings for access to propane and other pipes is sealed entirely.
  4. Keep it clean! If you see any rodent droppings under there (like a squishy brown tictac), you have rodents running around the area where you make your hamburgers. That’s not only gross, but a potential attractant for rattlesnakes.
  5. Have your entire yard sealed properly by having rattlesnake fence professionally installed.

Don’t let your guard down just because it’s cold outside. Rattlesnakes in Arizona are active all year.

A term that people throw around and the local news loves is rattlesnake “season”. This implies that rattlesnakes show up at some point, stay awhile, and disappear – and nobody has to worry about it until rattlesnake “season” starts up again! This may be true in some places where ice-scrapers are sold, but here in Arizona, rattlesnakes are active to some degree every month of the year. They may not be traveling or hunting, but if they definitely will come out on a sunny day or after a rain even on cool winter days. No matter if you have one of the above feature or not, the greatest rattlesnake den advice I have to give is to continue to follow the rattlesnake safety rules as you normally would. Don’t reach where you can’t see, clean up messes as you make them, get rid of rodents and clutter, and so on. Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean you can’t meet a rattlesnake, and if you’re sharing a garage with one, that could be any time at all.

If you have any rattlesnake den stories or have found one at your home, or you have questions about any of these features and want more information about what you can do to help keep a rattlesnake den from showing up at your place, contact us.

Rattlesnake Caution After a Big Storm

Right now we’re all happily being soaked by the remnants of Hurricane Rosa. Washes are filling up, and desert life is getting a much-needed last, big drink before we go into another relatively-dry Arizona Winter. But this is a lot of rain, and rattlesnakes don’t have the weatherman to help make wet weather plans for the week. This can cause rattlesnakes to show up in some unexpected places during the next week or so.

Most rattlesnakes in the low desert have been busy doing their fall activities – eating, mating, and generally moving around a lot to get everything done before it’s time to laze-away cooler months. They often use washes and drainages, take cover under large rocks, rodent burrows, and similar situations. Unfortunately for them, when a rare event like regional flooding suddenly happens, this can cause rattlesnakes to be flooded out of their temporary hideouts. Rattlesnakes are often displaced by a major storm event in this way, and may end up moving erratically as they search for place to get out of the elements.

Don’t panic, just be strict with snake safety and be aware.

For homeowners, that means that your garage, covered patio, wood pile, or even car can become temporary shelter. If you live near a wash or drainage, especially, rattlesnakes will have to come to higher and dryer ground, so any available cover may be used. Even places that aren’t especially great rattlesnake refuges can become a port in the storm. Temporary or often-moved items like trash cans and parked cars, even boxes by the door, can become temporary shelter.

For hikers, it means that you may see rattlesnakes crawling in times and conditions that you don’t expect. If you avoid hiking at certain times of day hoping to not see a rattlesnake, the “rules” may be shaken up for awhile. In any case, rattlesnakes that you encounter still won’t chase, jump, or attack, or any of the silly stuff people believe. Follow hiking rattlesnake safety recommendations and be aware of your surroundings.

How to keep safe from rattlesnakes after a big storm:

Do not be overly alarmed, but do exercise extra caution during the next several days while rattlesnakes adjust to having their house flooded. As always in rattlesnake-activity areas, be aware of your surroundings and follow general rattlesnake safety protocol.

  1. Be extra aware of the area around your front and back doors if you have an overhang. If you have pots or decorations in these areas, pull them away from the wall to open the space up.
  2. If you are cleaning up debris from the storm, use heavy gloves and tools. Never reach directly into the sticks and leaves that pile up after rain water recedes. Rattlesnakes may be using this debris as temporary cover, so treat it as you would any other bush or potential rattlesnake-hide.
  3. When you let your dogs out to use the bathroom, go with them. A dog on a leash is seldom bitten by a rattlesnake.
  4. Talk to your children and remind them of basic rattlesnake safety, and accompany them when playing in the backyard.
  5. If you do have debris in your yard, give it a day or two before going in to clean it up, but don’t let it stay too long. Rattlesnakes that are displaced or flooded out by the storm may be using debris as temporary cover, but in most cases this is not suitable for them when things heat up again.
  6. If you have rattlesnake fencing installed, check it out to make sure there have not been any wash outs. If you see a washout, contact your installer to have it repaired as soon as possible.
  7. Be aware that not just rattlesnakes are displaced by the high water. Nonvenomous, harmless species also may make a surprise appearance after a watery eviction. If you’re not familiar with the snakes that live in your area, it may be time to brush up on your snake identification skills.

After the storm: rattlesnake encounters will be on the rise

Every monsoon season, a handful of big storms that sweep through the valley and rearrange our yards and shingles. The next day, an chainsaws and leafblowers join the sound of cicadas as the aftermath is handled.

Along with the downed trees and trash-scattered streets are rattlesnakes that have been displaced by the water and wind. After a massive storm, places where rattlesnakes may have been hiding from the heat can be flooded or destroyed. That means that these snakes have just a few hours to find new places to hide before the daytime heat kills them. That often puts them into conflict with people.

One of the places where rattlesnakes frequently live during the hottest times of year are in small caves along the edges of normally-dry washes. When these washes fill with water, rattlesnakes need to move. For home owners at the edges of these washes, that means that the rattlesnakes could be moving to the nearest dry area – your patio. Covered patios and entryways make up the majority of rattlesnake relocation situations after rainouts. They’ll also be hiding in the debris caused by the wind and flooding. Fallen trees and collections of yard debris are going to provide cool cover for these displaced snakes, and should be treated with caution when they are cleaned up.

The extra humidity also causes rattlesnakes to be more active, so they are already more likely to be hiding in temporary hiding spots, and may be more easily displaced by the big rain. Rattlesnakes are shedding their skin and heading out to hunt and drink after a long period of inactivity during the hottest and driest time of year, and that makes post-storm movement even more of a factor for home owners bordering desert areas.

Aside from the normal rattlesnake safety measures, extra caution is recommended during the cleanup process.

What should you do to keep safe from displaced rattlesnakes?

  1. Be alert around covered entryways and patios, especially in the corners. Rattlesnakes often use these covered areas to hide after extra-wet weather forces them to leave more preferable areas. If you have any decorations in the corners, like pots or plants, it may be good to move them out or at least create extra space between the corner and these features. Especially in the early morning, be mindful of the spots right around the front door.
  2. If you have downed trees or yard debris that has collected after the heavy wind and rain, give it a day before cleaning it up. Be mindful while you do so of the potential for rattlesnakes to be using it as temporary shelter. Rattlesnakes may be “stuck” in situations where they need to quickly choose places to hide from the daytime heat that are not preferable, and may end up hiding in piles of branches and fallen leaves. By waiting 24 hours, you give the snakes a chance to leave if they are there during the next suitable time to do so (at night).
  3. If you live near a wash or drainage, be especially cautious. Rattlesnakes are very common in drainages and the rain can force them to move erratically, often taking cover at the nearest available shade – your house.
  4. Accompany dogs outside during their bathroom breaks and give the yard a quick check before allowing children to play in unprotected yards. If possible to let them out earlier in the day while it’s still hot, that may further decrease the chance of an unwanted rattlesnake encounter.
  5. If you do not already have a rattlesnake-protected property, consider having a rattlesnake fence professionally installed to keep rattlesnakes out even during periods of irregular behavior.
  6. If any rattlesnakes are seen on the property, do not approach them and call a professional to help.

More than the monsoon – rattlesnakes may be surface active in any temperatures, any time of year.

Something that surprises many home owners each year are sightings of rattlesnakes after Winter rainfall. While it is true that rattlesnakes are largely inactive during the cooler months of the year (roughly November through February in the Phoenix area), some conditions will make them show up at any time. Heavy rain can cause similar displacement issues for rattlesnakes if it gets into places they’ve selected to spend the winter … especially if these are temporary, artificial, or new sites.

Other than displacement, rattlesnakes still need to drink in the winter time. Even in relative low temperatures for rattlesnake activity, they may come to the surface to collect rain in their coils or drink it directly from the rocks.

Here’s a video I took years ago at a small Timber Rattlesnake den, showing one of the several present rattlesnakes coming out to drink from the rocks.

If you have a rattlesnake denning on your property, you have a decent chance of seeing it sitting on the surface as the rain starts, or just after if the storm breaks to sun. What most people don’t like to learn about these situations is that the rattlesnake has almost certainly been in the area since about October, just hidden until having a reason to come out.

All in all, rain is just one of the many factors that make rattlesnakes move and be visible to people.

The monsoon is here. Are rattlesnakes more active?

After months of brutally hot and dry conditions, the valley was absolutely hammered with rain and wind last night. The longer a person lives in Arizona, the more they learn to love such events. This is certainly true for native Arizonans, including rattlesnakes.

As humidity increases, rattlesnakes that have been hiding deep under cover have been emerging in small groups at the entrance of these safe areas, hoping for some rain. When the first sprinkles do come falling down, the rattlesnakes coil and gather rain on their scales, then drink it from any surface they can. While most of us were swearing in traffic or huddled at the office window watching palm leaves fly through the air, rattlesnakes all across the valley were sitting out in the open waiting for their first drink in awhile. The long wait is finally over – another foresummer survived.

To quickly address what you may be hearing out there: yes, monsoon weather does increase rattlesnake activity.

So what is next in the life of a rattlesnake? Does the monsoon make them more active?

In short, yes. Though rattlesnakes are active all year to varying degrees, the monsoon moisture brings the greatest period of activity of all. In just a few short months, they need to shed their skin (at least once), eat, mate, have babies, eat again, mate, establish dominance over new areas, travel to birthing, shedding, and hunting areas, and more. They are very active and this means that they can show up in surprising places more than other times in the year.

It’s not just the moisture and a chance to drink that brings them out – temperature is a primary driving force that dictates most rattlesnake activity. When the rain finally comes, the temperature stabilizes into a much more survivable, and predicable, range of temperatures. Daytime temperatures drop, nighttime temperatures stay put, and overcast skies can mean a longer, slower climb into lethal temperatures each day. This makes heading out into the world in search of mates or food a much less dangerous activity, and rattlesnakes begin to cover ground much more than in previous weeks. Under the darkness of a new moon in the monsoon humidity, rattlesnakes can be found moving in great numbers everywhere in Arizona.

This may not mean that people are more likely to run into them. Unlike the active period in the Spring, much of their activity takes place at night. That means that while they may be more active than any other time during the year, much of the contact time that can overlap with human behavior takes place right at sunup and shortly after. That means that we will get a few relocation calls each day from people surprised by a rattlesnake sleeping by the front door as they leave for work, but much of the rest of the day is pretty quiet. that is, until the babies start to move.

What happens when baby rattlesnakes are born?

Starting in mid July (now), some rattlesnakes begin to give birth. Rattlesnakes give live birth and do not lay eggs, and will stay with their babies for a period of time afterward. Once the baby rattlesnakes have shed their skin, they head out into the big scary world to eat and figure out how to be a rattlesnake.

As they wander, they often get into a lot of trouble. We find baby rattlesnakes in all kinds of terrible situations – stuck in glue traps, squished all over roadways, and crawling around in conditions that no self-respecting adult rattlesnake would ever be caught out in. This is bad news for home owners near areas where rattlesnakes live, since the likelihood of random encounters may be higher. However, unlike what is often the case with larger and older rattlesnakes, a visit from a newborn rattlesnake may not be for any particular reason but close proximity to desert areas, and may not actually indicate a rattlesnake “problem”.

What can be done to avoid rattlesnakes during monsoon season?

Even when rattlesnake activity is at its peak, the usual rules apply: stay aware, avoid putting hands and feet into places you can’t see, and keep the yard clean. If your backyard looks anything like mine does right now after last night’s massive storm, debris and leaf litter can be all over and be used as cover for rattlesnakes. Do what you can to keep debris to a minimum, rodent populations in check, and assume that any dark place has a rattlesnake in it until proven otherwise. If you live near an area where you may have random rattlesnake traffic, now would be a good time to pull the trigger on getting a rattlesnake fence installed, before the babies come. If you do have a rattlesnake fence already, use the pen test to see if your fence is good enough to really do the job.

Even though rattlesnakes are pretty much having a party right now, it doesn’t mean you need to worry too much. Just stay aware, and enjoy the rain!

Living with Snakes Basics for New Arizona Residents

Photo by Brandon Harmon, Rattlesnake Solutions

Many people move to Arizona for our near-constant sunshine, and mild winters. These also make for perfect conditions for reptiles, which to the dismay of many homeowners, live in great numbers throughout the state. Where our neighborhoods meet the desert, an encounter with a snake every so often is just part of life.

The valley is home to 6 unique species of rattlesnake, all of which pack a harmful, venomous bite. A bite, which if logic prevails, is almost always optional. Rattlesnakes are on the menu for many desert predators. They’re nervous, shy, and like most animals, will try to prevent their own death when it is threatened. Rattlesnakes do not chase, jump at, or come after perceived predators, regardless of the numerous, fictional tales we as Arizonans are sure to hear. The fact is; rattlesnakes encounters are almost always harmless if in nature, and optional in our yards.

So what is the home owner to do, when a venomous visitor suddenly drops by one morning, coiled on the porch and going nowhere? The first thing to consider: nobody is in danger. The snake has been seen, and the only way anyone will be within range of a bite is if they put themselves there. Statistically, this is what many shovel-wielding husbands will do, becoming the single largest bite statistic, by far. A bite to the hand of a home hero can cost well over $100,000, cause incredible pain, and result in disfigurement and occasional death. Contacting a professional to remove the animal costs around $100, and is absolutely safe and humane.

Taking one step back – why is the snake there? Isn’t there some way to keep them from being there in the first place? Fortunately there is. Here are a few tips to keep your yard as rattlesnake-free as possible:

  • The desert is a hard place to live; make sure your yard isn’t an oasis. Rattlesnakes want food, water, and shelter. Deny those, and the yard is nothing interesting. Fix leaky hoses, keep the yard clean, and make sure all of the bushes are trimmed and free of dead plant material underneath.
  • If you have a view fence or wall surrounding the property, complete the barricade. Door sweeps and wire fencing can be installed to keep animals out. It’s a relatively inexpensive Saturday project for the handy, or contact a snake removal company to install it for you.
  • Forget the store-bought snake repellents and mothballs; they simply do not work. Many pest control companies will swear they do, but all research points to repellants being a smelly waste-of-money.

Dogs can be trained to avoid rattlesnakes by a number of businesses around the valley, and an inexpensive vaccine can be requested by most veterinarians. Keep dogs on a leash in desert areas, and have emergency information on-hand if you live near open, native desert.

Despite the very high number of snakes that are found here, bites still make the front page when they occur. It is a relatively rare event with an extremely low fatality rate, which somehow still occupies a place in our culture as a major threat to be feared by every desert home owner. As citizens in this amazing Sonoran habitat, it is the responsibility of all of us to be peaceful, well-informed co-inhabitants with the desert wildlife. Rattlesnakes may be the thing of nightmares to many, but that is an optional fear that, like most fears, fades to nothing with a willingness to learn and a touch of understanding.

In the valley, the most common places to run into a rattlesnake in your own yard are Cave Cree, Scottsdale, and other areas where there is a lot of development and contact with native areas.

As a primer, it might be good to carve out about an hour and a half to watch this long-form presentation on rattlesnake avoidance in Arizona and how to feel better about it all if you fear them.

Most Commonly Encountered Snakes in the Phoenix Area

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

VENOMOUS – Grey to tan in color, between 1’ and 4’ long. Easily identified by the distinct white and black banded tail, and rattle. Defensive in nature but easily avoided if encountered. Do not attempt to capture, kill, or otherwise interact with this snake.


Sonoran Gophersnake

BENEFICIAL – Also commonly misidentified as a “bullsnake”. Tan, yellow, or orange in color, with dark brown blotches, between 1.5’ and 5’in length. Defensive if attacked, but non-venomous and will not bite unless attacked. A gophersnake is great free pest control.


Desert Nightsnake

BENEFICIAL – Grey or dark brown with double rows of spots on the back, between 8” and 14” in length. Often confused with a baby rattlesnake due to elliptical eyes and triangular head. Absolutely harmless, this snake feeds on spiders and scorpions in the yard.


Speckled Rattlesnake

VENOMOUS – Highly variable, this snake takes the coloration of rock where it is found; orange, brown, white, or light grey. It is small, between 1’ and 3’  in length. If seen, do not approach this snake for any reason.


Longnosed Snake

BENEFICIAL – Often confused with the kingsnake, this snake is between 8” and 3’ long. It eats lizards and their eggs. They are absolutely harmless, and can reduce rattlesnake-attracting prey in a yard.


Kingsnake

BENEFICIAL – Black and white banding from head to tail, and between 1’ and 4’ in length. Kingsnakes consider rattlesnakes a primary food source, and are great to have on a property. They may bite if picked up, but are otherwise completely harmless.


Coachwhip

BENEFICIAL – Fast, slender, and between 1’ and 5’ in length. May be black, olive, or red in color. This snake eats rattlesnakes and other prey items and should be kept as-is if seen. They will bite if picked up, but move away quickly if seen and are difficult to capture.

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Snake Identification & Information: email photos to info@phoenixsnakeremoval.com