Snake Safety

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is home to many critters, one of which is the Red diamond rattlesnake.  Some visitors become scared, upset, uncertain, or sometimes leave the park when they hear this news.  The Ameal Moore Nature Center recognizes your concerns for safety and would like to provide a few words on snakes in the park.

Snakes are found in many parts of the world and most snakes are not poisonous. The ones that are use their venom for hunting more than protection and are not interested in constant attempts to harm humans.  Rattlesnakes are unique to the Americas, and the ‘rattles’ on their tails may sometimes signal their presence when you are too near.  Red diamond rattlesnakes are poisonous, but with these answers to frequently asked questions and safety tips, you can stay safe.

FAQ by visitors to the nature center:

  • Q: I’m afraid of snakes. Will they chase me?
    A: No, the snakes will not chase you.  They want to be left alone as much as you want them to leave you alone.
  • Q: Will I die if I’m bitten? 
    A: There is a good chance that an adult Red diamond rattlesnake will give you a ‘dry’ bite- meaning there is no venom in it.  Their goal is not to kill you (as you are far too big for them to eat) but to make you leave them alone and or to save their own lives.  However, venom or no, it is important to remember that a snake will bite if it feels threatened.  It is therefore very important to not agitate any snake you see and to avoid disturbing all wildlife.
  • Q: How do I not agitate snakes?
    A: Leave them alone. Do not approach them, touch them, or attempt to pick them up. Please do not grab them by the tails to try to get a picture of them or to prevent them from leaving. Whether the snake is poisonous or not, it is best to leave them be.
  • Q: How do I avoid snakes completely?
    A: Because the park’s wildlife roams freely, there is always the possibility you will encounter a snake. However, to limit this possibility, visitors should stick to wide, established trails. Especially early and late in the day.  Visitors should not stick their hands in holes or crevasses in rocks and should also avoid walking in bushy areas or areas of tall grass.
  • Q: What if I do come across a rattlesnake?
    A: Take two large steps back.  The safest place to be when there is a rattlesnake nearby is outside of its strike range.  Once you are a safe distance away, choose a different route to continue your hike.
  • Q: What if I find a snakeskin or a dead snake? Is it all right for me to pick that up?
    A: No, please do not pick up and attempt to take anything out of the park or bring it into the nature center.  All inhabitants of the park are protected and we ask that what you find in the park (other than garbage which we appreciate you throwing away or reporting) stays in the park. That includes their parts as well (feathers, furs, skins, etc.).

Safety tips to remember:

  • AVOID: If you see a snake, avoid it.  Give any snakes on trails the right of way.  If you cannot go around it (we urge visitors to stay on the paths for safety and to preserve the park by minimizing the human footprint- however, if you need to avoid a snake, please do so), turn around and walk away.  Do not attempt to pick a snake up or grab it by the tail! Please remember, these are not pets. If you see a snake off the path that is not rattling at you do not approach it! This does not mean that the snake is dead. Snakes sleep with their eyes ‘open’ and the snake may simply be sleeping. It is also important that you keep your pets on a leash to avoid any unfortunate accidents.
  • LISTEN: You may not always immediately see a rattlesnake- sometimes you will hear it first.  The center urges visitors to listen and pay attention to their surrounds.  It is a good idea to not listen to music loudly when in the park so that you will be able to hear any warning rattles.  But remember, not all rattlesnakes will rattle at you, and not all snakes have rattles, so keep your eyes open for them.
  • WATCH: Watch where you walk and where you put your hands.  Do not stick your hands in any crevasses between rocks or down any holes.
  • TEACH: Teach others in your visiting party to be aware of the snakes.  If you have children with you, make sure you keep them close to you and teach them snake safety.  Some visitors think that because they handle their domesticated pet snakes at home that they can also handle the wild ones in the park. Again, these are not pets and it is important to teach those with you that fact.
  • TOGETHER: In case of accident it is always a good idea to hike the trails with a friend.  The nature center is currently closed on weekdays.  If an emergency arises, dial 911.

The Red diamond rattlesnakes in the park are a part of the ecosystem. Please do not harm any of the snakes in the park. The park exists to protect the animals within it. By following these tips and guidelines you can help us ensure that the park stays open and that you stay safe.

However, accidents can occur. If any snake bites you, please seek medical attention immediately. Even the bite of a nonvenomous snake can cause damage (through infection or tissue damage). Here are some steps to take for initial first aid if someone is bitten by a snake from ‘Pest Notes’ by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources publication 74119:

If you are less than 1 hour from a treatment facility:

  • Call for help
  • Keep the victim calm
  • Wash the bitten area with soap and water gently
  • Put a cold and wet cloth over the bite
  • Get them to a treatment facility

There are many misconceptions about rattlesnake bite treatments. Here are some things that should NOT be done:

  • Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Do not put ice on the bite
  • Do not cut at the bite with sharp objects
  • Do not try to suck out venom with your mouth
  • Do not apply electric shock

Remember during any visit to wear proper attire when going through the park and to bring plenty of water and sun protection with you. By being prepared, you can stay safe and enjoy the park’s beauty.

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