By Brooke Curley
GRAHAM COUNTY – The Gila Valley is encompasses a desert landscape that residents share home to a variety of creatures. While we share the desert as a home, that doesn’t mean we care to share our homes with the creatures.
That’s what happened to Thatcher resident Jennifer DeSpain recently, when a rattlesnake attempted to make its way into her home through a crack in the screen of her window.
“It surprised us because our screen was a little bit cracked, but now we’re a lot more careful with our screens,” DeSpain said. “The kids found it.”
It only takes a day or two of temperatures in excess of 80 degrees for our local rattlesnakes to exit their hibernation periods and begin exploring. From one side of the Gila Valley to the other, snakes have come out to hunt and travel.
According to Ashly Curley of Rattlesnake Exterminating, there have already been multiple incidents of snakes invading human space.
“They’re coming out really early this year,” Curley said. “We’ve had a lot of snake calls. There was one that was on a lady’s curtain rod in a lady’s house; a baby rattle snake.”
According to Curley, the exterminating company has come across rattlesnakes that have come in doggy doors, slipped into garages, and were by the back door. On the west side of Pima, two residents on the same street encountered rattlesnakes in their garages within a week of each incident.
“We just ask the customers do not approach (the snakes),” Curley said. “Like I was telling the other people, don’t go up to them and make them mad because that’s when they’re going to strike. If you frighten a snake, the snake is going to strike. If you get close to a snake and make it uncomfortable, it’s going to strike.”
There are 25 different breeds of rattlesnakes in the United States. Most rattlesnake bites are on the hands and ankles because snakes are accidentally stepped on or touched. According to the Food and Drug Administration, there are roughly eight thousand people bitten by rattlesnakes each year.
If someone has been bitten by a snake, do not apply a tourniquet, ice the wound or suck out the poison. These methods are not effective. In the event of a rattlesnake bite, call 911. Keep the bite below the person’s heart, if possible, and remove any tight clothing or jewelry in the event of swelling.
If you see any type of snake, leave it alone. Rattlesnakes come in a variety of colors and shapes. Not every rattlesnake has rattles. Young rattlesnakes have no rattler and they are still capable of biting. Their bite can be even worse than that of an adult snake because they could release all of its venom.
Do not wander around in the snake’s hunting time or obvious habitat. Snakes usually hunt at night or early morning. During the daylight hours they keep to shady areas, so avoid tall grass and weeds.
Be especially careful when climbing or moving firewood because rattlesnakes often hide in the shade of rock crevices and fallen trees.
When swimming, never grab a floating stick. Rattlesnakes are very agile swimmers. Lastly, do not ever touch a freshly killed snake. Dead rattlesnakes have a reflex in which they can still strike.
When a Snake is in a Residential Area
If you or someone else is bitten by a poisonous snake, call 911 immediately.
Observe the reptile at a distance (at least 6 feet) and try to identify what type of snake it is. Do not try to kill or capture the snake yourself.
If you or your pet is not in danger, leave the snake alone and allow it to make its way back into the desert.
If you are in an undeveloped area, such as the desert or a park, leave the animal alone. Restrain your pet until the snake moves on. Warn others in the area.
Take steps to help ensure your safety with our desert neighbors
Arizona is home to a wide variety of snakes. These animals serve an important and effective role in rodent control. Without such predators, the disease and destruction for which rodents are responsible would increase. Because many homes are built on or near wildland, and with the number of desert parks available for recreational use, reptile encounters are highly likely.
Help keep snakes away from your home with the following tips:
Eliminate rodents – a snake’s preferred food source – from around your home.
Move woodpiles and throw out junk from your yard to remove potential homes for snakes and their prey.
Erecting a wall will deter snakes from entering your yard. Solid walls 4 feet high with a 4-inch lip angling outward will discourage most snakes. Sink the bottom of the wall into the ground. Fill any tunnels burrowed by rodents.
Install gates snugly against the ground.
Keep walkways clear of brush.
Light pathways around your home.