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Wildlife 101: What to do if you see a rattlesnake

Rattlesnake in California
Rattlesnake in CaliforniaMarc Briggs

Rattlesnakes are relatively common in San Diego. What should you do if you come across one on your hike?

Most snake bites can be avoided. If you see a rattlesnake, leave it alone. Back away slowly and walk the other way. Rattlesnakes will not attack you unless they are provoked. Most bites happen when the person did not notice the snake, maybe by stepping on it during a hike. Always be aware of your surroundings and look before you step.

Tips to avoid rattlesnakes:

  • Wear protective clothing like hiking boots and long pants
  • Watch where you step, especially when walking through dense vegetation or rocky areas
  • If you see a snake, do not touch it! Leave it alone
  • Back away slowly and walk the other way

Deaths from rattlesnake bites are rare. Although rattlesnakes are venomous, not every bite contains venom. A nonvenomous bite is called a dry bites, and is not as dangerous. Baby rattlesnakes are the most dangerous because their rattles are not fully developed and they have less control over how much venom they release.

What to do if bitten by a rattlesnake:

  • Call 911
  • Remain calm. The slower your heart rate, the slower venom will move through your bloodstream
  • Sit down and keep the snake bite below your heart until help arrives
  • If you are not able to call 911, go to the nearest hospital to receive anti-venom. Walk instead of running to keep your heart rate low.
  • Do not try to suck out the venom or use a tourniquet.