GAME AND FISH NEWS, April 23, 2020

PHOENIX — As Arizonans get out to experience the trails and outdoors, it is important to remember that Arizona is home to 13 species of rattlesnake. The ones encountered most often are the Western diamondback, Mojave, black-tailed and sidewinder.

Thomas Jones, amphibians and reptiles program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said: “Arizona has more rattlesnake species than any other state, and we can all celebrate that amazing biodiversity”

In warm deserts, rattlesnakes are most active March through October. During the spring, rattlesnakes are most active in the daylight hours. As the days become increasingly hot, usually around early May, rattlesnakes become more active at night.

April is typically when the most rattlesnake bites are reported in Arizona. So far, there have been 39 bites reported in 2020 to the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, 19 of those in April.

Watch your step at home

Rattlesnakes can blend in easily with surroundings, so always look where you place your feet and hands. Carry a flashlight at night, especially on warmer nights when rattlesnakes can be most active.

Stay on the trail

Encounters with rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles can happen anywhere but are more likely to occur when you leave a marked trail or wander away from a heavily trafficked area. Always stay on marked trails and be cautious of your surroundings.

Remember, if you encounter a rattlesnake, the snake is more concerned with being left alone and would rather not have to deal with you. Slowly back away from the snake, give it a wide berth, and continue on your way; an agitated rattlesnake will often hold its ground but will not chase you. If the snake is in your yard, watch the snake, as it is most likely just passing through.

If you need to have the snake removed, some fire departments may remove snakes or you can call a snake removal service or pest company, however there will likely be a charge.

“Although accidents certainly happen, rattlesnakes are typically not dangerous unless provoked,” Jones said.

By leaving rattlesnakes alone, you can significantly reduce your risk of being bitten. In fact, more than half of all rattlesnake bites are provoked by the person who was bitten. For additional information and resources about rattlesnake bites, contact the Arizona Poison Drug and Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

There is an increased level of coyote activity recently, so if you have small edible pets, be on the alert. A backyard fence may not be adequate to keep them at bay. We have also had incidents of great horned owls carrying smaller pets away. (While many of us are hoping the predators will be working on the gopher population, there are no guarantees.) Be alert! Lynn

With spring finally arriving and more outdoor activities to enjoy, one of our members recently had a somewhat close call and thought it prudent to spread the word:

You may have noticed the increased public awareness campaign on rabies. That’s because rabies moves through localized areas in cycles, and we are currently experiencing an uptick here.

In fact, one of our residents recently trapped a skunk, which tested positive for rabies.

The USDA agent who euthanized the skunk shared some interesting information and asked that it be broadcast to the entire VDO community.

Three other rabid animals were trapped in the immediate vicinity of VDO in the past few weeks. This included wild animals such as skunks, gray foxes, and so on.

If you own a pet, it is critical that it is VACCINATED and that its rabies vaccination is CURRENT!

By Arizona law, domestic animals that do not have proof of current vaccination and that come in contact with rabies are euthanized.

Recently they’ve had to put down several dogs, cats, even a horse, in Cochise County.

As the USDA puts it, domestic animals are the barrier between rabid wild animals and humans. That’s why an up-to-date rabies vaccine is critical.

So, to reiterate:

* Use caution around wild animals in the area. For example, currently 90% of gray foxes are testing positive.

* Be sure your pet’s rabies vaccine is current.

* Minimize your pet’s contact with wild animals, such as avoiding letting domestic cats run feral.

Hopefully this cycle will run its course quickly, although we should always be rabies-aware.

Hey, let’s be safe out there!

Lynn