Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Travel: Arizona Rattlesnakes

(click to enlarge)
This blacktail rattlesnake is just one of 18 found in Arizona. Fortunately in all our hunting trips down here we have seen just one; a large specimen (no I did not check its ID so...) found sunning itself half in and half out a pack rat hole our first trip. But this time around we hit the jackpot so to speak. A visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum (don't miss this one should you find yourself in the area) just outside Tucson lucky us (Gale would not agree) the program of the day was on rattlesnakes and gila monsters (I'll post more on these ugly brutes later). From that I was able to glean the following which I am posting just for you followers entainment; since you are by now sitting on pins and needles here goes:

Arizona is the rattlesnake capital of the U.S. with 18 species; Sonora, MX is the world capital with 25 species.

Southern Arizona has no rattlesnake “season”; snakes are active 12 months of the year be especially alert anytime temperatures rise into the upper 60s, 70s and beyond.

Arizona hospitals treat on average about 350 rattlesnake bites annually. About 1/3 are considered “legitimate” bites, those in which the victim had no interaction with the snake; 60 to 70 year old males dominate this classification. The remaining 2/3 are considered “illegitimate” whereby the victim was in some way interacting with the snake; handling, harassing, etc. Of the “illegitimate” bites a large majority are suffered by young, intoxicated, tattoo laden, males (15-30 years old) many of which are missing teeth (I’m not making this up). About 10-13 percent of the bites are “dry”, i.e. no venom injected; on average about 3 victims per year die.

Anti-venom used to be derived from serum taken from horses; in those days the majority of deaths were the result of side effects such as anaphylactic shock and severe allergic reactions. Anti-venom today is derived from sheep, carefully cleaned and such deaths are rare. The downside anti-venom has become outrageously expensive. Depending where you can expect to pay anywhere from $1500 to as much as $5000 per vial. Most snakebites require multiple vials to reverse the tissue damage. Add in doctor and hospital fees, perhaps emergency transport and such and don’t be surprised to find a bill in the mail in excess of $250,000 (this is not a typo). Severe cases have been known to push the half-million mark.

In places like southern Arizona snakes seldom den in large numbers; rarely den deep beneath the surface. Like others desert rattlers den in rocky areas but many simply crawl into a pack rat midden to ride out the cold spells.

If bitten forget all those first-aid treatments you might have read or heard. The best advice is remain calm, immobilize the bite area as much as possible, keep the bite as close to “heart high” as possible and get to a hospital as quickly as possible. The quicker anti-venom is applied the better but is effective even hours or days later if necessary.

Since I did not take any notes no doubt there is more to learn on this fascinating critter as more info drips from my sorry brain I will pass it along...over and out...


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