As the weather in Colorado gets warmer, expect to see more rattlesnakes emerging from their winter dens.
Watch your step! Rattlesnakes—Colorado's only venomous snake species—are slithering their way out and onto our trails, in our backyards, and practically anywhere else they can reach.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) says that the slithering creatures will usually come out of their winter dens in April or early May. During the summer months, they do tend to switch between time in the sun and the shade, and hunt in the late afternoon/evening. Should you choose to go out hiking or walking during this time of day, we encourage you to be vigilant and cautious.
And while rattlesnakes won’t attack if unprovoked, they are known to strike in defense.
Below, we've listed the steps to take if you or someone you're with is bitten, as well as the symptoms of a bite, and how to be proactive with your safety on the trails.
Symptoms & How to Treat Rattlesnake Bites
- Bloody wound discharge
- Fang marks or swelling at the wound site
- Severe localized pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbing and tingling
- Extreme burning sensation
- Rapid heart rate
- Weakness of body
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Blurred vision
Now that the symptoms have been identified, what additional steps should you take?
- *Contact medical help as soon as possible!*
- Keep the bite victim as calm and as still as possible. Make sure their movement is restricted and the affected area is at or below heart rate level—this reduces the flow of venom in the system. It helps to create a loose sling to restrict movements.
- Take off any constricting items or clothing, such as rings, due to the affected area’s potential for swelling.
- This next step may seem odd, but it definitely helps the venom to leave the system. Let the bite bleed freely for at least 15 to 30 seconds before cleaning.
- Keep an eye on the bite victim’s vitals—temperature, heart rate, breathing abilities, and blood pressure (if possible). Also, be aware of any signs of shock, such as sweating, clammy skin, or shallow breathing.
- Avoid looking for the rattlesnake, this increases the risk of an additional bite.
*When contacting medical assistance, it's important to try and identify the snake so the hospital is aware of what type of anti-venom is needed.
You can also call the National Poison Control Center—a national hotline that allows you to speak with experts during any type of poisoning—at 1-800-222-1222. Available 24/7.
Safety on the Trails
Wear the Appropriate Clothing
Be smart and proactive. Don’t wear flip-flops while hiking; instead, wear sturdy and closed-toe shoes—especially when you find yourself in more wild areas. And as tempting as it may be to wear shorts, please wear loose-fitting long pants to protect your legs. Startled rattlesnakes do not announce themselves (by rattling) before striking in defense.
Watch Where You’re Walking
Don’t step or place your hands where you can’t see what you’re touching. If you're able, walk on logs and rocks. Also, be sure to check your surroundings (i.e., stumps or logs) before sitting down, and shake out your sleeping bag if you’re camping anywhere.
Keep Your Pups on a Leash
The risk of getting bit is increased in dogs because they hold their noses to the ground while getting a feel for the surrounding area, so keep them close and be aware of where they venture off to. Always, always make sure your dog is on a leash.
Do you have any more tips? Where do you like to go hiking in Colorado? Sound off in the comments.