RATTLESNAKE ALERT: Here's what to do if you spot one

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - The Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that Utah is rattlesnake country, and during the summer months, sightings happen all the time.

A rattling reptile coiled-up and staring you down means one thing -- do not move.  Experts say it is a rattlesnake's way of warning you that you are in its territory and it feels threatened.  The scenario is the rare occasion when Dave Jensen says you may have to stand still for awhile until the rattler slithers back into its normal shape.

The expert snake recoverer and owner of Wasatch Snake Removal says in general, when someone spots a snake, they have nothing to worry about. 

"The last thing they want to do is encounter a human being and have a face-off with us," Jensen said. 

Across the Wasatch Front, there is only one prevalent rattlesnake species dangerous to humans, and that is the Great Basin Rattlesnake.  Jensen says fortunately, its one of the more mild breeds. 

"They do not want to bite us," Jensen reiterated, adding that they will if people confront, corner, or provoke them. 

It is also important for hikers like Tom Jones to remember not to startle snakes. 

"I stepped and I heard a [rattling nose], and I just took off running as fast as I could," he laughed.

Jensen says it is certainly smart to move away -- but he says slowly is key. 

Jensen says you always want to avoid stepping over a snake lying on trail, reaching under rocks or bushes, and assuming you are safe because you do not hear a rattle. 

"You can come across a snake that's sleeping, you can come across a snake with a broken rattle.  Young snakes have an incompletely developed rattle," he explained. 

He says the best rule of thumb is respect them in their own environment, and they will respect you.

"It's bad luck and bad karma to kill a snake," he said. 

Besides that, it is illegal.  Jensen says not only can harming or trying to kill a snake land you in the hospital, it will also earn you a hefty fine. 


Below, you will find the DWR's summer safety tips for encountering rattlesnakes. 


If you are hiking... 

  • Tip 1 - Remain calm. Do not panic.
  • Tip 2 - Stay at least five feet from the snake. Give the rattlesnake plenty of space.
  • Tip 3 - Do not try to kill the snake. Doing so is illegal and greatly increases the chance the snake bites you. Wilson says most venomous bites happen when untrained people try to kill or harass a snake. "Usually, the snake is simply moving through the area, sunning itself or looking for a place to hide," she says. "If you leave the snake alone, it will leave you alone."
  • Tip 4 - Alert people to the snake's location. Advise them to use caution and to respect the snake. Keep children and pets away.  

Keeping rattlesnakes out of your yard... 

  • Tip 1 - Reduce the number of places that provide snakes with shelter. Brush, wood, rock and junk piles are all items you should get rid of.
  • Tip 2 - Control rodent populations. Bird feeders and water are two of the main items that draw rodents to yards.
  • Tip 3 - Avoid scaring away harmless snake species, such as gopher snakes. Having other snake species on or near your yard may deter rattlesnakes from wandering through.
  • Tip 4 - Wilson says she's heard of people using "snake repellents." But she isn't aware of any scientific testing that shows these products are effective.


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