PHOENIX - After seeing more rain than usual during the cooler months, Arizona has plenty of vegetation to feed the rodents and birds that rattlesnakes love to eat.
But that doesn't mean more rattlesnakes now that temperatures are warming up, experts say. That may happen in a couple years, but not until rattlesnakes fat and happy from plentiful food live to make baby rattlesnakes.
"When the ecosystem flourishes, the animal flourishes, and a number of those birds and rodents are prey to venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes," said Russ Johnson, president of the Phoenix Herpetological Society.
Thomas Jones, amphibians and reptiles program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said there seem to be as many rattlesnakes out there as usual.
"To be honest, I don't think it's going to be that intense this year compared to other years," he said. "Rattlesnakes come out when it gets warm. They are just more active this time of year than any other part of the year."
That doesn't mean people shouldn't be wary of rattlesnakes in the great outdoors or around their homes, experts said. Rattlesnake bites can be fatal if not properly treated in fairly short order.
Johnson said nearly all rattlesnake bites result from human error, not rattlesnake aggression. Examples include getting too close to a rattlesnake signaling its presence and even poking them with sticks.
"The stereotypical bite happens to a male ages 17 to 27 with large amounts of alcohol involved," he said. "So in a lot of cases, this just might be Darwinism."
Johnson said rattlesnakes typically don't like to use their venom on humans because they need it to catch prey.
"It bites you and uses all the venom out of its gland, it may take six days to make new venom, he said.
Jones, with Game and Fish, said the Mohave rattlesnake can be little more dangerous because it's feistier and its venom attacks the nervous system.
"All rattlesnakes can be aggressive at certain times, but not all rattlesnakes are aggressive in general," he said.
If bitten, Jones said, the No. 1 form of first aid is, "Call 911."
Bryan Hughes, owner of Rattlesnake Solutions, a humane rattlesnake-removal service in Phoenix, said people sometimes unknowingly invite rattlesnakes onto their property by offering them the water, shelter and food they seek.
"They don't usually have a lot of opportunities to get that in a harsh environment, so if you have a swimming pool with a messy log pile next to it and dog food lying out, then you've created the perfect environment to invite rodents and invite snakes in," he said.
More like this story
- Wetter months mean more vegetation and prey, but not necessarily more rattlesnakes
- 'You don't hear them': Silent baby rattlers pose risks for the unsuspecting
- Time to start watching for venomous critters
- Watch your step; snake season arrives in Verde Valley
- UA doctor’s drug could buy time between rattlesnake bite and anti-venom treatment