Unseasonably warm weather is great for outdoor activities but be sure to keep an eye out for snakes!
Rattlesnakes do not truly hibernate. Instead, rattlesnakes enter a period of "brumation", which means that on days with nice weather, they may come out from their winter den and spend time nearby on the surface. What “nice” weather is can change; it doesn’t always mean warm and sunny, as many would expect. In fact, a day in the low 60’s with cloud cover and light rain after a period of several weeks without is a perfect time to observe rattlesnakes sitting out in the open near their dens.
Often when it is unseasonably warm in January, February, or March, many will report that snakes are out early but this is not completely true. More snakes are spotted simply because home owners are also more active. Warmer weather means time spent hiking, golfing, and other spring activities. Rattlesnakes are just starting to spend more time on the surface, and the increase of both their activity and our own makes for many more situations where running into an unexpected rattlesnake is possible.
How to avoid a snake bite: Watch where you put your hands and feet. Try to keep your hands and feet out of crevices in rocks, wood piles and deep grass. Always carry a flashlight and wear shoes or boots when walking after dark.
Snake proof your yard for your safety as well as your pets. For many properties, the best solution is to simply block entrance to vital parts of the yard. Look for gaps in gates, fences, and garage doors. Remove any vegetation that is growing up or over fences and walls. Remove any debris in your yard such as wood piles, leaves, or brush that snakes could hide in or under.
Pet owners should be aware of the symptoms of a snake bite as most often, owners may not be around when the attack happens. Symptoms include: swelling, puncture marks, bruising or discoloration, intense pain at the bite site, collapse, respiratory distress if bite affects airway, vomiting, and muscle tremors. You might consider "snake training" your dog. There are many types of training methods, so check with your vet if you are interested in pursuing this as an option.
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, the first and most important thing to do is get away from the snake, as they can strike again if they feel threatened. Don't waste time trying to catch the snake, but try to remember its size and color. This will may help your medical team identify which species it was that bit you and locate the correct anivenin. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible. Call for an ambulance if you're able to!