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rattlesnakes Photo courtesy of Phoenix Zoo  

Rattlesnake  bites are rarely fatal but are extremely painful and destructive. Most bites happen when people choose to disturb,play with, handle the snake or try to capture it.

It's far better to walk around the snake or avoid it entirely.

  • Thirteen species of rattlesnakes have been identified in Arizona and extra caution should be taken when being outdoors when the daytime temperature stays above 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rattlesnakes can be encountered at anytime during the year but in March and April, rattlesnakes become more active and move to areas where they can soak up the sun.
  • During hot summer months, they are more active at night. After the start of the August monsoons, they become the most active of the year.
  • The shaking of the rattle can serve as a warning but not always: rattlesnakes can strike without warning or making a sound.
  • They can strike 1/4 to 1/2 of their body length. The rattlesnakes in Arizona can be of different lengths.
  • Babies are typically born at the end of July and are capable of biting from birth.

Symptoms of a bite

  • Immediate pain or a burning sensation occurs at the site of the bite; fang marks are usually visible
  • Victims may experience a metallic or rubbery taste in the mouth 
  • Significant swelling usually occurs within minutes, and symptoms may progress to weakness, sweating and/or
  • Chills, nausea and vomiting
  • A small percentage of rattlesnake bites are "dry," meaning that the snake has not injected venom. But do not count on being one of the lucky ones: seek help immediately. Only a doctor can determine if you have a "dry" bite.
  • Snakes' venom can cause severe tissue damage, blood thinning and other effects.


  • If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
  • Use your cell phone to call for help if there is coverage in the area.
  • While it is important to get treatment as soon as possible, if you are a great distance from your car or other help, move slowly if necessary to get help.
  • You have time to reach medical care.

Here are a few guidelines to help in the event you are bitten:

  • Don't panic: Stay as calm as possible. If bitten on the hand, remove all jewelry immediately before swelling begins
  • Don't apply ice to the bite site or immerse the bite in a bucket of ice 
  • Don't use a constricting band/cloth/belt or tourniquet. Do not restrict blood flow in any manner
  • Don't cut the bite site or try to suck out the venom. Leave the bite site alone! 
  • Don't use electric shock or stun guns of any kind.
  • Don't try to capture the snake to bring to the hospital. Time spent capturing the snake delays arrival at the emergency department, and may result in additional bites
  • Identification of the snake is not necessary for treatment. Physicians treat the symptoms as they occur and modify the antivenom/treatment as needed. Treatment is not snake specific
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Poison and Drug Information Center
24-hour phone: 1-800-222-1222
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