Hiking is an amazing way to go outside and enjoy the outdoors yourself, with friends, pets, or with family! Discovering new trails, plants, and animals can make a hike doubly enjoyable. However, there comes a time when hiking can become very dangerous and no longer feasible.
A rattlesnake is a large, venomous reptile located throughout the Americas (North and South). They are most often found in Northern Mexico and the Southwestern parts of the United States. When it’s time to distinguish a rattlesnake, and its warning sounds, listen up for a whirring rattle:
Physically, their rattle on the ends of their takes is sections of keratin, the same protein that forms your hair and nails. These segments fit inside each other and knock against each other to create the buzzing sound when a snake vibrates it. Older and larger rattlesnakes have larger rattles because every time the snake sheds its skin, another layer is added to the rattle. Even if you don’t see the snake, if you hear a rattle and hiss, it’s a warning sign!
You should always have your guard up against a rattlesnake, no matter what!
Here are six ways to avoid a rattlesnake encounter when you’re hiking.
- Hike with trekking poles
- Stay on well-hiked trails
- Wear loose pants and high boots
- Stay on open paths
- Avoid thick bushes
- Go hiking during hibernation season
1. Hike with trekking poles
Trekking poles should be a part of all your hikes, regardless of where you’re hiking. Trekking poles reduce the impact of hiking on your knee joints and legs. They can be used to deflect thick and thorny bushes, as well as knock away spiderwebs.
Poles can give you extra balance since you will have two more contact points. It will be like you’re a four-legged animal!
As far as rattlesnake protection, trekking poles allow you to feel around the ground far ahead of you. If you hear a rattlesnake but don’t see one, you may want to stop moving completely and feel around dense vegetation to spread it to make the snake visible.
2. Stay on well-hiked trails
Although hiking new territory is adventurous and exciting, it’s best to avoid it; especially if you live in an area where rattlesnakes are common to the terrain. Well-hiked trails have many people using it regularly, which would keep the snakes at bay.
Generally, snakes do not enjoy a lot of high-traffic areas. They prefer a private and peaceful life! If there is a trail with a lot of movement and is dense with humans, snakes want little to no part of it!
Aside from that, people who were hiking the trail before you are likely to report it and a ranger or passer-by will make sure you’re aware.
If you are familiar with the route, it will be easier to know the ins and outs of the area. This means you can guess or estimate where snakes or other creatures may hide out in certain sections of the trail.
If something does happen, a well hiked trail means more people who can aid you if something goes wrong.
3. Wear loose pants and high boots
What you wear when you’re hiking is important for your safety. Aspects such as the weather can make your entire hike outfit change.
You want to remain comfortable while you’re taking on a such a vigorous activity. Wearing breathable clothing is always the best way to go.
Although you may be tempted to wear shorts, if you are going on a trail that is not well traveled, its recommended that you don’t.
If you are going on a hike in an area known for rattlesnakes however, it is much more than recommended against absolutely DO NOT wear shorts or leggings.
Wear loose pants and high boots so your ankles are protected against. Exposed skin is exactly what an angry snake is looking for.
Loose pants should be tucked into the boots, so you still have breathability. Snake-proof boots are very popular and may be exactly what you need if you’re hiking through thickets.
4. Stay on open paths
On trails, there are many opportunities to stray from the path.
Additionally, if you’re hiking on a trail that isn’t used frequently, it may not be as clear as a more popular one. This means more unclear sections full of rocks, bushes, and tree branches. Be sure to tread lightly so you don’t twist your ankle or hurt yourself.
Staying on an open path means less vegetation. This creates an area where rattlesnakes are easier to spot.
One of the hardest parts about snakes is that they are tricky and blend in naturally to their surroundings.
They are not often brightly colored because they don’t want to be spotted. A trail that is simple to navigate is clear of surprises and snakes!
5. Avoid thick bush
Rattlesnakes, like all other snakes, are cold blooded animals. This means, they create the temperature fluctuation in their bodies by switching from cooler areas to areas with direct sunlight.
On cooler days they enjoy exposing themselves and being out in the open, but on warmer days they will hide in thick, dense bushes. This presents a danger to you if you go off the path or go through a denser area with unclear area.
Make sure to stay on the path and avoid stepping where you can’t see. Rattlesnakes can be very tricky!
6. Go hiking during hibernation season
Actually, snakes don’t hibernate! They just become less active during certain times of the year such as colder months. This process is known as “brumation” for snakes. They become lethargic and don’t move around as much as their metabolism falls.
Snakes such as rattlesnakes spent winters dormant because they’re cold blooded and have no way to keep warm. On sunny winter days you may find them out in the sun warming up.
Keep these 6 tips in mind the next time you’re going hiking in an area known for rattlesnakes.