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An encounter with a rattlesnake is always an exciting event. Though the inexperienced person may feel great fear, with a little knowledge one can turn his or her emotions to feelings of respect and perhaps appreciation!

When you encounter a rattlesnake keep in mind that once it senses you it will be just as nervous as you are. The snake has good reason to be afraid. By size comparison alone, you are much more of a threat to the snake than it is to you. Move slowly and deliberately in the vicinity of rattlesnakes and back away to a safe distance. The rattlesnake will not chase you. Keep tabs on the location of any rattlesnake and alert people in the area to be cautious. Pets should be restrained until the snake moves on.

Despite appearances, snakes do not crawl very fast. A rattlesnake traveling at top speed would have trouble reaching 3 mph. People with their wits about them can certainly evade such a snake. The strike speed however is impossible to match. The distance of the strike can be up to two thirds the length of the snake. A distance equal to the length of the snake can be considered a safe distance; however, six feet is a better idea.

If you encounter a rattlesnake in your yard and do not wish it to be there, you have several options.

  • Watch the snake. Most likely it is just passing through and you will not see it again.
  • Call your local fire department. Some departments remove rattlesnakes.
  • Call a private enterprise. Some specialize in the removal of animals and charge for their service. Look under "Pest Control Services" in your Yellow Pages.

It is not recommended that anyone without proper training handle rattlesnakes. No rattlesnake, not even a dead one, should be picked up by hand. Reflex bites with envenomation can occur several hours after death.

The threat from venomous snakebite is overrated. Many persons now realize this and avoid killing rattlesnakes. This not only benefits the snake and the environment, but also humans. If rattlesnakes are left alone, the danger of being bitten is significantly reduced. More than half of all rattlesnake bites are provoked by the person being bitten.

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