Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heather's Corner: Rattlesnake Preparedness: Yes, It's That Time Again

You're walking along an Oro Valley pathway enjoying the sunny warmth on your skin. Maybe you aren't watching where you're going because the bursting wildflowers have caught your eye. Suddenly you hear the sound of keratin segments vibrating at 60 times per second and you realize, days of carefree biking, hiking, and meandering are over. It's rattlesnake season.

Southern Arizona has 15 types of rattlers and the next few months is when you are most likely to encounter one during daylight hours, respectfully switching active times to just after dark during hotter months. So what do you do if you encounter one? Don't panic!

Visitor at my parent's house last summer. Gulp!
The Arizona Game and Fish Department's website assures us that the scaly fellow will be just as nervous as you are. Your best bet is to move away slowly and deliberately, at least 6 full steps (or 6 feet) in the opposite direction of the snake and potential striking distance. Though rattlers max out at 3 mph top speed during travel, their striking speed is unmatched.

What about those visitors to our back yard patio? Chances are the snake is just passing through but you can also call the fire department for immediate removal as well as a private enterprise located under "Pest Removal Service." I, personally will choose the latter two options if necessary.

How about rattlesnake prevention?

Believe it or not, there are actually things you can do to prevent rattlesnakes from entering your yard. A major deterrent is keeping their food source to a minimum. That means eliminating rodents in and around your property. Being a primary food source, it makes your yard a perfect residence with unlimited buffet for the summer. Keep in mind, and this broke my heart, bird feeders as well. Though they are lovely to have, snakes are drawn to the prolonging scent of birds at the feeders.

Also rattlers do not dig their own holes therefore seek out shelter in pre-dug holes via rodents, rabbits, or other types of snakes. Be vigilant in filling in these holes as they appear. And yes, that woodpile next to the side of your house should probably go too.

Above all, common sense prevails. Although you can not prepare yourself for the unexpected chance encounter on a pathway or in your own back yard, realize you take certain risks when traveling off path or in areas more likely suited for a rattler habitat this time of year. Time to start making my yard unappealing to the Arizona spring and summer critters. Though, I do love my bird feeder. Maybe that one can wait a few more weeks. Any photos of critters you'd like to share? The Arizona Game and Fish department also suggest a solid 4 foot wall with an outward lip, shown in the sketch, because snakes can not cling to a wall if forced to arch backward for the lip. However, they can fit into areas as small as a quarter so gates must fit snugly on the ground and drainage holes should have 1/4 inch hardware cloth.
Heather Nenadovich has lived in Oro Valley for 6 years. She has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She loves gardening, nature, art, and travel. Currently her two young children fill up most of her days (and nights) with chaotic bliss. Oro Valley favorites: memorial bench at the entrance of Romero Canyon Trail in Catalina State Park, Toscana Studio and Gallery, OV Fall Festival, the gumption and determination of OV residents!

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