Snake Bites More Common - Tucson News Now

Snake Bites More Common

By Dan Marries, KOLD News 13 Anchor

It's been a dangerous few days for rattlesnake bites. At least seven people were bitten over the holiday weekend.   They're everywhere:  hiding under rocks and brush, even curling up under trees. That's why it's so important for people to be on the lookout.

Stephane Poulin of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum says, "Basically the state of Arizona is what we call the rattlesnake capitol of the United States."

There's 18 different varieties of rattlers in Arizona, and you can see them all at the Desert Museum.  But if you spend any amount of time outside, the chances of running into a rattler can be high.  If you're not careful, a bite could be just a step away.

Says Jude McNally of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, "Over 50% of the patients actually saw the rattlesnake, recognized the danger and then placed themselves at greater risk" by provoking the snake instead of leaving it alone.

But there's also the accidental bites - when a person gets close to a rattler without even realizing it.

"They feel threatened for their lives," Poulin says. "For them, they way they defend themselves is by biting, so we don't feel comfortable with saying snake attack.  It's a snake defending against a human being."

The Arizona Poison Control Center in Tucson received seven reports of rattle snake bites in the last few days.  But the number is more than likely double that, because of more people outside for labor day and the wet monsoon.

"With more rain we get more food," Poulin says."It creates just a flourish of other animals, more rodents, more birds, more food for the snakes."

If you are bitten, antivenin is the only treatment, and even then the threat to your health could be life changing.

"Twenty-five percent of the patients we consult at six months, 12 months or 18 have some permanent disability," McNally says.  "Some loss of range of motion, or loss of strength, loss of function directly as a result of the snake bite."

In a typical year, about 200 rattle snake bites are reported in Arizona, and there may be just one person who dies from that bite.  But it's critical to get a hospital if you are bitten to get that life-saving antivenin.


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