Snake Country Travel Guide

Worried about snakes during your outdoor adventures?

Respecting local wildlife is an important part of responsible outdoor recreation. Remember, we’re visitors in their home.

Learn to hike, bike, climb, and camp safely in snake country and appreciate all of your wildlife encounters.

Move safely in snake country

Slow down and be aware of your surroundings. Admire the plants, wildlife, and landscape. Notice tiny beetles or baby lizards who might have been run over by a less-aware, fast-moving visitor.

Look before placing your hands and feet. If you can’t see, use a long stick to disturb vegetation and hidden animals.

Use a flashlight or lantern.

Stay on the trail if possible.

Avoid or move cautiously near areas preferred by snakes: rock outcrops, downed trees and logs, water’s edge, bases of shrubs, shady areas when it’s hot, and sunny areas when it’s cold.

Respect warning signals. Rattling or hissing means “I’m afraid of you.” If you hear it, give the sound a wide berth.

If you can’t see who’s there, it’s not a safe place for your hands or feet.

Keep an eye on kids and pets

Train your pets and teach your kids to respect and keep a safe distance from snakes.

Don’t let pets or children roam unsupervised until you’re sure they know how to move safely in snake country.

Lula keeps a safe distance from an Arizona Black Rattlesnake.
Lula keeps a safe distance from an Arizona Black Rattlesnake.

Killing or handling snakes is a good way to get bit

Most bites happen to people who try to handle or kill snakes; the rest are due to people not watching where they put their hands or feet.

Once you spot a snake, the risk of a bite is virtually zero since you can keep a safe distance.

Snakes presumed dead can and do bite.

Shooting snakes can result in accidentally shooting people because long, low snakes are easy to miss.

A timid Long-Nosed Snake, photographed by Ceal Klingler.
A timid Long-Nosed Snake, photographed by Ceal Klingler.

If wildlife is protected where you’re recreating, that includes snakes. Handling and killing them is likely prohibited.

A hiker steps near Henry, a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, at a trailhead.
A hiker steps near Henry, a Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, at a trailhead.

If you find a venomous snake

In a high-traffic area (trail, parking lot, campground, handholds):

  • Wait for him to move, or
  • Use a long stick or hiking pole to gently encourage him to move, and
  • Stay with the snake until he’s moved out of the way, if possible, so you can warn others to keep their distance.

In a less-traveled area:

  • Wait for him to move, or
  • Walk aroundcarefully, in case there are other snakes nearby.

If someone is bitten by a venomous snake seek medical attention immediately. The only effective treatment for snakebite is antivenom, so don’t waste your time with snakebite kits or other home remedies.

Learn local wildlife’s habits and avoid their places or observe from a safe distance

You could see snakes:

Courting & mating

Snoozing together in the sun

Sparring over potential mates

Drinking rain or snow as it falls on their coils

Snakes are important predators and prey

Their presence indicates a healthy and productive ecosystem.

Many animals depend on snakes for food, including birds (raptors, owls, roadrunners), mammals (foxes, badgers, coyotes), and other reptiles. Kingsnakes, Racers, and some other snakes eat venomous snakes.

More snakes = less disease! Snakes eat vectors and carriers of many diseases, including the plague and Lyme disease.

Snakes are important predators of mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, and reptiles (even other snakes). And due to their non-competitive nature and ability to fast for long periods, vipers (rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths) control prey populations more effectively than bird or mammal predators.

  • An Eastern Patch-nosed Snake eating a rodent

Welcome to my neighborhood!

Snakes have an undeserved reputation as evil, cold-blooded creatures.

Fear and misunderstanding result in merciless persecution and impede snake conservation efforts.

We envision a world where snakes are respected & appreciated instead of feared and hated.

Advocates for Snake Preservation

changes how people view & treat snakes

We provide resources on how we can peacefully coexist with our snake neighbors.

We study snake behavior and natural history, following the principles of Compassionate Conservation.

We dispel myths and misinformation about snakes through free presentations, online outreach, and publications.

Find out more about us at www.snakes.ngo