Rattlesnake safety: Precautions and first-aid


Emma Marsing, [email protected]

SWEETWATER COUNTY, WYOMING — Wyoming is officially starting to warm up, which means more and more adults, children, and beloved pets are beginning to take on outdoor activities. With the dry conditions around the state, rattlesnakes are beginning to move their way into the open. It is important to know the precautions to take when doing outdoor activities in the desert as well as what to do if you or your pet are bitten by a rattlesnake.


There are two types of rattlesnakes that reside within Wyoming, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake as well as the Midget Faded Rattlesnake. The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake has a heavy body with a triangle-shaped head, two dark diagonal lines along its jaw, and diamond-shaped patterns along its back. The Midget Faced Rattlesnake is the most common rattlesnake citizens in Sweetwater County see. These snakes are small and light-colored with very limited patterning.

Although they may seem like a threat, rattlesnakes are not aggressive and only strike when they feel threatened or are startled. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet, and ankles.”

There are a few precautions to take while doing an outdoor activity, especially in rocky areas. The following reccomendations are presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • Wear protective clothing (i.e. over ankle hiking boots, long socks, long pants).
  • Avoid tall grass, weeds, and brush off the beaten path.
  • Watch your feet when stepping and do not place your feet near a crevice you cannot see into.
  • When approaching a large boulder, step onto the rock instead of over to ensure there is no snake on the other side.
  • Be cautious when collecting rocks or firewood.
  • Check any stumps or logs before sitting upon them.
  • Shake out all sleeping bags before use.
  • Never grab or touch “sticks” when in creeks, rivers, or lakes. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • If you hear the warning rattle, move away from the area and do not make any sudden movement in the direction of the snake.
  • Do not handle a freshly killed snake – it can still inject venom.
  • Rattlesnakes do not always rattle before striking.

If bitten by a rattlesnake, there are a few immediate things to do while making your way to the nearest hospital or urgent care facility. Do not make an incision over the bite mark, restrict blood flow, ice the bite, or suck the venom out. Instead, remain calm, call 911, wash the area with soap and water if possible, remove anything that may constrict swelling (i.e., watches, rings, bracelets), immobilize the area, and keep the bite below the heart.

It is very common within Sweetwater County for residents to take their loved animals on walks in the “boonies”. If your pet has been bit, the first step is to remain calm as pets can sense panic, causing them stress. Immediately call the vet and get them to the nearest veterinarian hospital. Keep the wound below the heart and wash the bite with water and soap if possible.

There are a few symptoms to recognize as well if a pet has been bitten by a rattlesnake. According to VetERinary Specialists of the Rockies, there will be sudden weakness and possibly collapse, trembling, shaking, and/or twitching of muscles, diarrhea and/or vomiting, unsteadiness and weakness in hind legs, excessive salivation or frothing of mouth, bloody urine, dilated pupils, and paralysis. If the animal is unconscious, call the vet for CPR instructions.

A run-in with rattlesnakes can be quite common, especially with the warm temperatures increasing throughout the county and state. Be sure to follow all precautions and if needed first-aid to make a full recovery if you or your pet has been bitten.