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Experts offer rattlesnake safety tips as weather heats up

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SALT LAKE CITY – Warmer weather can bring unwanted guests into backyards, and rattlesnakes are among the animals looking for shelter and shade.

The season is still early, but there have already been several reports of rattlesnake bites. Reptile Rescue is a non-profit organization that removes snakes free of charge, and they said they receive about a dozen calls each week.

“When food is more abundant you usually have more snakes, and we had a lot last year,” Jim Dix of Reptile Rescue said. “This year it is just starting to warm up, and we will start seeing an increase in snakes.”

Dix said a rattlesnake bite can be a very costly experience.

"The anti-venom is about $8,000 a vial, and they start you off with six vials," he said. "$48,000 right off the bat with no hospital bill, so it's an expensive lesson to learn. And even after you've been bit you can still have side effects."

Snake experts said people usually get bit because they are harassing or trying to kill the snakes, though they said occasionally hikers or joggers encounter snakes and suffer a bite. It is illegal to attempt to kill or capture a rattlesnake in Utah.

Snakes are more common near: Tooele, Erda, Lake Point, the area near Wasatch Boulevard, Red Butte Gardens and trails near the Utah State Capitol.

Experts said things like bird and squirrel feeders can attract snakes to yards. They also said rattlesnakes like to hide in wood piles and hay stakes. Experts also advise people to tap rocks with a long stick and listen for a rattle before they weed or plant in rock retaining walls, as snakes may hide in those places.

In the event of a rattlesnake bite, experts offer the following advice:

  • Get away from the snake, but try to identify it
  • Immobilize the wound
  • Do not suck out the venom
  • Experts said there is no need for a snake bite kit or a tourniquet
  • Remove rings and restrictive jewelry because the bite can cause swelling
  • Get to a hospital as quickly as possible