The Sonoran Desert is known for its diversity of rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are extremely well adapted to their rodent hunting lifestyle. They're equipped with heat vision for night hunting during the hottest times of summer, a unique scent organ they use in association with their forked tongue, folding hypodermic fangs, and one of the most complex venoms in the world to immobilize their small prey.
The majority of people bitten by rattlesnakes are bitten while handling the snakes. If you see a rattlesnake while hiking, keep your distance, they can bite up to 2/3's the length of their body. Be patient and the snake will move. If you are bitten remain calm, less than 1% of all people bitten in the United States (by any venomous snakes) die. Half of all rattlesnake bites are dry, no venom is injected. Do proceed to the nearest hospitable to receive antivenom, just in case. Even in "fatal" bites there is usually a two hour time period to get to a hospital .
The best cure for a rattlesnake bite is not to be bitten. While exploring the desert in the hotter months be aware of your environment. Don't put your hands or feet where you can't see them. Watch the trail ahead of you for snakes, and under the bushes to the side of the trail. Use a hiking stick in brushy areas to clear the path. And always carry a flashlight at night, to avoid those rattlers staying warm in the middle of the hot pavement.
Species of rattlesnakes found within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument include:
Click here to download the rattlesnake identification handout.
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