At this time of year, a good many outdoors oriented folks head to the hiking trails, be in locally in the Pocono Mountains, Hawk Mountain or the vast Appalachian Trail that runs locally through the Blue Mountains and beyond through 14 states. As such, keep in mind there are hazards along the way. Namely, rattlesnakes.
Rattlers strike fear in the hearts of many people, especially those who believe the only good snake is a dead snake. Hikers in particular, need to know that people bitten by rattlesnakes are usually harassing them or trying to kill them. In the latter cases, the rattler will often strike to protect itself. Rattlesnakes fear humans, says the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and will do anything to avoid us. The best remedy is to give them plenty of space and leave it alone. Respect the snake and it will respect you, the PGC opines.
Since rattlesnakes’ camouflage helps them blend into its surroundings, you may pass by a rattler and never know it.
Many moons ago I, along with several members of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association, were invited to a mule riding trip over some Pocono Mountain woodlands. Half way through the day long trip and at a high point in the forest, we encountered a rattler sunning itself. Our mule team of eight, passed by it along the trail about six feet away. Since mules are seemingly calm animals compared to horses, the mules never flinched and the snake didn’t rattle or move.
When you’re out hiking, its recommended to check the trail ahead of you and look close before stepping over rocks, reaching onto ledges or sitting on a rock or log.
Here’s what’s suggested to do if encountering a rattler:
*Remain calm and don’t panic. Stay at least 5 feet from the snake and make sure to give it plenty of space.
*Don’t try to kill the snake as it increases the chance the snake will bite you.
*Don’t throw anything at the snake like rocks or sticks as rattlesnakes may respond by moving toward the person throwing them.
*Alert other hikers to the snakes’ location and keep children and pets away from the area. Keep your dog, that a lot of folks hike with, on a leash as allowing your dog to roam increases the chance the dog will find the snake and get bit.
*If you hear a rattle, don’t jump or panic. Try to locate where the rattle came from before moving so as you don’t step closer to it or on top of it.
Some time ago I played spring golf in Arizona and hit my drive into a cactus filled, sandy area. When I walked to the location where the ball went out of bounds, I noticed a sign that read, “Rattlesnake’s are coming out of hibernation so beware of walking in this area.” I dropped a new ball in the fairway and took a penalty stroke as I didn’t dare venture in there.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.