Ssssssss…Snakes alive!

Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus) slithering across a basalt boulder.
Striped Whipsnake (Masticophis taeniatus) slithering across a basalt boulder.


If you visit Petroglyph during the spring or summer, you might see a snake. All snakes will escape from human contact given the opportunity. Most of the snakes found in Petroglyph are harmless and nocturnal.

An adult Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) slithering across the desert ground.
An adult Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) slithering across the desert ground.


However, Petroglyph does have a healthy population of two types of venomous snakes, the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) and the Western Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis). .


While it is unlikely you will see either rattlesnake during your visit, there is a possibility since you are walking through their habitat. Snakes are mostly nocturnal, seeking shelter in rodent burrows or rock crevices during the hotter part of the day. In mild to warm temperatures, approximately 70-80 degrees, individuals may be seen warming themselves on basalt boulders, on trails and on blacktop roads. Snakes play a vital role in our ecosystem, feeding upon rodents that may be carriers of hantavirus.

In the event you come across a snake, here are some things to remember:

~ The best thing to do is give them plenty of room. Keep a distance of at least 6 feet between you and a snake.

~ Rattlesnakes will not attack but if disturbed or cornered, they will defend themselves just like any other wild animal.

~ Be aware of where you are walking. Do not attempt to look into or put your hands or feet in any holes, burrows or rock crevices.

~ Listen. You will hear a rattlesnake before you see it. Rattlesnakes have a built in warning system- when you are getting too close for their comfort, they will let you know.

~ Note the location of the snake and report your sighting to a Park Ranger.

In the highly unlikely event of a snake bite:

~ Remain calm.

~ Do not try to cut into the bite or attempt to suck the venom out.

~ Do not use a tourniquet.

~ Send someone for help and get medical care as soon as possible. (Hospitals are only 15 minutes from Petroglyph.)

~ Stay as still as possible. Physical exertion increases the flow of venom through the body.

Many rattlesnake bites are "dry" bites in which venom is not injected. It is physiologically costly for a rattlesnake to waste venom on something other than a meal.

Last updated: February 1, 2018

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