Should You Play With a Rattlesnake?
September 27, 2017 at 5:52 am
This rattlesnake doesn't want to play with you. And the feeling should be mutual. | Michael Joseph Baca
There's a saying known as Betteridge's law of headlines. It goes: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no.'"
The headline of this post is Exhibit A for that concept. If you don't believe us, ask Victor Pratt.
Pratt, a 48-year-old man from Coolidge, southeast of Phoenix, was celebrating his child's birthday with friends earlier this month when a rattlesnake showed up in his yard, The Arizona Republic reported. Pratt grabbed the snake and showed it off, even posing for photos while holding it. He was planning to then cook the snake on his barbecue grill.
But things quickly took a turn: Pratt lost his grip on the snake's head, and the reptile bit him twice — once in the chest and once in the face. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital, then to a facility in Phoenix, where he was sedated for five days and received more than 20 doses of antivenom.
Pratt's situation was made more dire by the location of the bites. Ordinarily, rattlesnake bites occur on an arm or leg, and those are rarely fatal. But the swelling caused by a bite to the face could have blocked his airway had he not gotten immediate medical attention.
"Ain't gonna play with snakes no more," Pratt told The Republic. That's a good plan.
But what should you do to avoid being bitten while you're out on a hike in Arizona? As our editor, Robert Stieve, writes in the Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, you can start by not putting your hands or feet in places you can't see, such as on the other side of a large rock or log. Look where you're stepping first, to avoid startling a venomous reptile that might be hanging out there. Use a stick to bat the brush ahead of you before your feet get there. And at night, use a light, since snakes like to sprawl on warm, flat ground and asphalt.
If you are bitten, remember that few people die from rattlesnake bites. Stay as calm as possible, and sit still. If possible, get to a hospital quickly; in the meantime, chemically activated cold packs can slow down the venom's rate of travel. If you must hike out on your own, set a moderate pace and remind yourself that this injury is not fatal.