These are a few environmental hazards that visitors should be generally aware of when visiting the monument.
Heat and Sun
Heat exposure is far and away the most likely hazard that visitors will encounter at the monument. The summer months, particularly July and August, can be extremely hot with many days reaching over 100 degrees Farenheit. Remember to use sunglasses, sunscreen, and drink plenty of water if you will be outdoors for any length of time. There is no point in pushing yourself into dyhydration or heat exhaustion. There is nothing to see that is worth endangering your health.
If you see a snake during your visit to the Monument, it will probably be a non-poisonous bull snake or garter snake. However, two species of poisonous rattlesnakes also make their home here, the northern pacific rattlesnake and the prairie rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes will usually try to crawl away or remain hidden unless surprised. You can minimize the chances of being bitten by keeping your distance. It also helps to watch where you put hands and feet. Snakes will seek shady, cooler areas when the hot summer sun is out, so avoid putting hands and feet in locations where you can't see.
If you are bitten by a snake, you need to get treatment as soon as you can, but not so quickly that you risk endangering your life or someone else's. Rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, especially if treated within the first two hours.
- While many species of spiders live within John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, only two may be dangerous to humans, the black widow and the brown recluse.
Black widow spiders are found under stones, around stumps, in holes in the ground, around outbuildings, under furniture or sinks, in trash or leaves, and in similar places. Though they are quite venomous, they seldom bite people. When disturbed they are much more likely to attempt to escape than attack.
Brown recluse spiders are usually found in sheltered places out of doors, such as in basements, attics, barns, or behind furniture. A person bitten by a brown recluse will probably not even feel the bite or know that they have been bitten until 12 hours or so later when a lesion at the bite site may start to appear.
As with rattlesnakes, don't your hands or feet into places that you cannot see like under stones, in holes, under furniture, or behind boards. If you suspect you have a spider bite, seek treatment as soon as you can, but not so quickly that you risk endangering your life or someone else's.
Adult ticks rest on grasses and low plants and attach themselves to people or animals that brush against the vegetation. Once they hitch a ride upon a passing animal or person they can spend up to 2 to 4 hours climbing the host to find a good site to attach. Make periodic inspections of your clothing and that of your companions. Remove loose ticks and thoroughly wash your hands and thecontact area. If a tick is imbedded in the skin follow standard first aid procedures for removal. If you develop a rash or any flu-like symptoms, visit a doctor.
- Scorpions are not considered deadly, though their sting can make you very ill, so treatment should be sought if you are stung. They are usually found under rocks or bark, in lumber, and even in shoes that have been left unattended. They are rarely seen out in the open.
- Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) is a common weed, also known as goathead, Mexican sandbur, and Texas sandbur. The spiny seed pods of this matted plant will penetrate soft soles of shoes, flatten bike tires, and stab bare feet. Look out for it along roadsides, and around recently disturbed soil areas where it likes to grow. It is not poisonous, but puncture wounds can get infected.
You may encounter poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) or poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) on your visit. These plants are usually found in wet areas along streams. Many people develop an irritating skin rash within a few hours of contact with these plants. It is best to watch for them and avoid contact. Follow general first aid procedures if you come into contact with one of these plants.