We are all afraid of things that we can’t always see, and especially things that might bite! To have a little knowledge of these creatures can remove some of the fear and replace it with respect. Many adults fear what they don’t know and rather than make an effort to learn, would find more comfort in killing the "venomous thing."
Fortunately, rattlesnakes are born with a built in alarm system for us! That dry rattle we hear is a warning for us to stop, find the source, and move away. More often than not, rattlesnakes hear you coming and will move away long before you would ever know they were around. So don’t panic.
Yep, they do bite. But many feel they are overrated. Twenty five percent of bites are dry, or have no venom. The apparatus that loads the venom usually does not have enough time when the snake is startled, just as you suddenly come upon it. The majority of bites that result in serious injury typically happen when the snake has been handled or is injured. People tend to "play with" the snake out of curiosity, and the results can be painful.
Another thing to remember is that, many times, the snake will simply miss. Other preventatives, such as thick clothing materials and leather boots can keep the venom from reaching its target. Also, rattlesnakes have a set of fangs below the orifice that dispenses venom, which makes it possible for one to bite, even drawing blood, without any venom interring the wound.
In the event of a rattlesnake bite, an immediate burning pain will spread up the arm or leg that is bitten and swelling will begin within a few minutes to a couple of hours. This depends on the individual. The affected area may remain swollen, stiff, and bruised for weeks.
Do not suck out the venom with your mouth or cut the wound to extract the poison. This and other inaccuracies (such as that rattlesnakes will chase you) are only things born out of old western movies. The best thing to do is elevate the bite if it is on a leg, or use a sling for an arm bite. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, but don’t panic. Antivenin can be administered as much as 24 hours after a bite. Remember what the snake looked like to help identify the right antivenin. Call Emergency Poison Control: (602) 253-3334 or (800) 362-0101.
Be prepared to meet up with a rattlesnake when hiking in Arizona. But please, instead of carrying a weapon to obliterate it, just listen and watch, and avoid a confrontation. Simply walk the other way.