Make sure you’re prepared for all the elements — especially the wild ones — while exploring the various landscapes of northern Nevada.
Hiking in the rugged, stunning and varied landscapes of northern Nevada is a huge draw for many who live here. From Pinyon pines and sage to darting Quail and pink-streaked sunsets, you never know what you might see.
And that also includes native wildlife like snakes.
“If you live in Nevada, you live in rattlesnake country,” says Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). “At the same time, so few people get bitten by rattlesnakes. They are not out to get you.”
No matter where you hike, you have to be prepared for the elements and slithering serpents are indeed a part of it.
Nevada is home to 52 species of reptiles, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Only six can be dangerous to people and pets — Sidewinder, Mohave Rattlesnake, Speckled Rattlesnake, Western Diamondback, Western Rattlesnake, Gila Monster — and most of them live in southern Nevada.
As you prep for your next outdoor adventure, here are three of the top tips to take with you to stay snake safe in Nevada’s wilderness.
How to avoid a bite
When hiking, there’s a motto you can live by and teach your kids: If you don’t mess with snakes, they won’t mess with you. It’s not likely you’ll encounter a snake and the odds of you getting bitten are very low.
There is always a chance, however, that you might encounter a snake when hiking or during any other outdoor adventure. NDOW and the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest doing the following to decrease your chances of snake bites:
- Wear over-the-ankle boots, thick socks and loose-fitting long pants.
- Stick to trails and out of the bushes, tall grass.
- Watch where you step, don’t step where you can’t see.
- If going over a fallen tree or large rock, step on it. Don’t jump over. A snake might be lying on the other side.
- Always check stumps or logs for snakes.
- If you see one or hear a rattle, move away from the area slowly. Don’t run or make any sudden movements.
- Rattlesnakes don’t always rattle and a rattle doesn’t necessarily mean a strike is imminent.
- Don’t handle or move a freshly-killed snake as it can still inject venom.
If you are bitten
Renown primary care physician Aaron A. Bertalmio, MD reminds us that the odds of getting bit by a snake are very low. Roughly 7,000 to 8,000 people get bit annually and 5 percent die according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Here are some tips in the event you do get bit:
- Stay calm, keep heart-rate low
- Get medical help as soon as possible
- Remove constrictive clothing or jewelry
- Clean the wound
- Cover with dry adhesive
- Keep the bite area level and below your heart if possible
- Apply a tourniquet — a tool used to stop arm or leg blood flow
- Ice the bite area
- Suck out the venom
The rattlesnakes you need to worry about
According to NDOW, there are five species of snakes that are harmful to people and pets in Nevada. But if you’re hiking north of Yerington and Fallon, you’ll likely only run into one snake: the Western Rattlesnake.
Known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, the Western Rattlesnake is primarily brown and gray and inhabits the northern 2/3rds of the state. Most rattlesnakes, with the exception of juveniles, are about 1.5 to 4-feet in length, NDOW says.
And venomous snakes are generally heavy-bodied with a triangular-shaped head that is much broader at the back than at the front. Rattlesnakes also have openings between the nostrils and eyes.
For your furry, four-legged friends, the best way to prevent a snake bite is to keep your dog on a leash. This will decrease the chances of a snake bite.