Seeing a snake while exploring northern Nevada’s trails is somewhat rare and the chance of a snakebite is even less common. However, it’s important to make sure you’re ready for snakes and know what to do in case of a snakebite.
Hiking the rugged, stunning and varied landscapes of northern Nevada is a huge draw for many who live here. But it’s important to stay alert and be prepared while you’re out exploring the natural habitats of wildlife, especially if you encounter a snake or get a snakebite.
As you prep for your next outdoor adventure, remember these three tips to stay safe in Nevada’s wilderness.
1. Leave snakes alone
In general, if you don’t mess with snakes, they won’t mess with you.
Seeing a snake is fairly uncommon because of their body camouflage and secretive nature, which are their first defenses in evading predators. According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), most snakebites happen when a person tries to capture or kill the snake.
Nevada is home to 52 species of snakes and reptiles, according to NDOW. Only six can be dangerous to people and pets:
- Western Rattlesnake (this is the most common type of venomous snake in northern Nevada, especially around Yerington and Fallon)
- Mohave Rattlesnake
- Speckled Rattlesnake
- Western Diamondback
- Gila Monster (these live in southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert)
Venomous snakes, like the rattlesnakes, have a wide head and thick body. Non-venomous snakes are usually more slender and have a narrow head.
If you see a snake on the trail and you aren’t sure if it’s venomous or not, it’s best to be safe and leave it alone by moving away slowly.
2. Wear the right gear and take care where you walk
NDOW and the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest doing the following to decrease your chances of a snakebite:
- Wear over-the-ankle boots, thick socks and loose-fitting long pants.
- Stick to trails and stay out of the bushes or tall grass.
- Don’t step where you can’t see.
- If going over a fallen tree or large rock, step on it. Don’t jump over it. A snake might be lying on the other side.
- Always check stumps or logs for snakes if you’re going to sit on it.
- If you see one or hear a rattle, move away from the area slowly. Don’t run or make any sudden movements.
- Don’t handle or move a recently-killed snake as it can still inject venom.
And for your dog, the best way to prevent a snake bite is to keep it on a leash.
3. Know what to do (and not do) if you get a snakebite
Renown Health primary care physician Aaron A. Bertalmio, MD, reminds us the odds of getting a snakebite are very low. Roughly 7,000 to 8,000 people get bitten annually and only 5 percent die according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
But in the event of a snakebite, here’s what to do:
- Get medical help as soon as possible
- Stay calm to help keep your heart-rate low
- Remove constrictive clothing or jewelry
- Clean the wound with soap and water if available
- Cover the snakebite with dry, sterile cloth or adhesive bandage if available
- Keep the bite snakebite area level and below your heart if possible
WHAT NOT TO DO IF YOU GET A SNAKEBITE:
- Apply a tourniquet (a tool used to stop arm or leg blood flow)
- Ice the bitten area
- Suck out the venom
You’re now prepped and ready on what you need to know about Nevada’s slithery friends so you can stay safe and enjoy the outdoors!