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Beware of rattlesnakes in Utah outdoors

Published July 10, 2012 2:18 pm

DWR tips • State experts offer advice on how to stay safe in case of an encounter.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Respect the snake.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers that advice to Utahns who may encounter one of eight rattlesnake subspecies native to Utah in their summer outings.

If you give rattlers space, the chance you'll have a negative experience is almost zero, according to Jason Jones, a DWR native aquatic species biologist. And if you can find a safe place to observe the snake, "you'll have a chance to observe the behavior of one of the most unique critters in the world," Jones said in a news release.

"Rattlesnakes are neat and novel members of our native reptile community," he said. "They control pests. They're very important to Utah's ecosystems."

The Great Basin rattlesnake is most common and is found throughout Utah, typically on rocky, talus slopes, according to the release.

"Because many snake species are camouflaged," Jones says, "there's a chance you've been close to a snake and never knew it."

DWR offers these tips if you encounter a snake:

Remain calm. Do not panic.

Stay at least 5 feet from the snake. Give the rattlesnake respect and space.

Do not try to kill the snake. Doing so is illegal and greatly increases the chance the snake will bite you. "Most venomous bites happen when untrained people try to kill or harass a snake," Jones said. "In most cases, the snake is simply moving through the area, sunning itself or attempting to find refuge. If you leave the snake alone, it will leave you alone."

Alert people to the snake's location. Advise them to use caution and to respect the snake. Keep children and pets away.