A friend of the Beat lost a beloved dog recently due to the bite of a Mojave rattlesnake, which is not expected at the altitude of Silver City. Her other dog is recovering. The incident occurred in the vicinity of Country Road off Rosedale Road. She said the dog that died took the bite to protect her when the snake came after her.

According to a Grant County Extension Office spokewoman, the same species of rattlesnake, the most venomous and most AGGRESIVE snake in the U.S., has also been spotted near Mineral Creek and off Little Walnut Road.

Crotalus scutulatus, whose common names are Mojave rattlesnake, Mojave green (due to its olive green coloration) among other common names, is a venomous pitviper species found in the deserts of the southwestern U.S. and central Mexico. It is best known for its potent neurotoxic venom (see information below).

The following information is courtesy of the Gila National Forest.

          What should I do if a snake bites me?

• FIRST - Stay calm. Move slowly and carefully away from the snake.

• Seek medical attention immediately. Call ahead to hospital so that the medical staff can prepare the antivenin as needed for administration upon arrival. Antivenin requires 60 minutes to reconstitute before it can be administered

• If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like or take a digital picture of the snake.

• Do NOT approach the snake; don't try to chase, catch, or to kill it. Remain a safe distance from the snake at all times.

• IMPORTANT: snakes normally remain within 20 feet of the area where the bite occurred. Warn rescuers or responders to watch for the snake, to avoid being bitten again. Do not handle snakes even when they appear to be dead – reflexes can make even a dead snake bite.

• Quickly take off any jewelry, watches, or tight clothing near the bite, before swelling starts.

• Keep a bitten arm or leg so it is level with your heart. Try to avoid putting the bite above or much below the heart level. This will help stabilize any swelling and slow any possible venom from circulating. If practical, try to limit movement of the affected body part as much as possible. Try to keep person bitten as quiet and still as possible.

• Immediately wrap a large elastic bandage (ACE bandage, folded to 2” wide) snugly on arms, legs, hands, or feet, applied 2 inches just above the bite site, between the bite site and the heart. The bandage should be as snug as one might bind a sprained ankle, but not so tight as to restrict blood flow. You should be able to slip a finger between the skin & the bandage.

DO NOT remove the elastic bandage until the person bitten has reached the hospital and has been assessed by a physician.

• GENTLY clean the bite wound with plain soap & water if available. Be sure to wipe in the direction away from the wound. DO NOT SCRUB THE WOUND OR TRY TO EXPRESS (press out or suck out) ANY VENOM OR BLOOD.

• Apply direct pressure to the wound ONLY if it is bleeding profusely. Apply additional gauze or bandaging to the wound directly as needed but DO NOT remove initial bandage. Leave bite uncovered unless bandaging is needed.

       What NOT to do for Snake Bite Victims

Do not attempt to suck or press venom from the bite wound.

Do not make cuts over the bite. This can lead to more tissue trauma and damage.

Do not apply a tourniquet or other constricting device.

Do not apply a cold pack or ice to the bite.

Do not apply an electrical shock to the bite.

Do not take pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen/Motrin or acetaminophen/Tylenol, etc.) or other medications unless instructed to do so by a physician.

Do not drink alcoholic beverages.

Do not administer anti-venom in the field. Treatment for snake bites is best conducted in an appropriate medical facility.

        How can I avoid snakebites?

Most snakebites occur between April and October, when snakes are most active, but snakebites can occur any time of year. You can avoid snakebites by taking the following steps:

• Avoid putting hands or feet into places where snakes may be. These places include tall grass or brush, under rocks or fallen logs, bluffs, swamps, marshes, and deep holes in the ground.

• When moving through tall grass or weeds, poke at the ground in front of you with a long stick to scare away snakes.

• Watch where you step and where you sit or squat when outdoors.

• Wear loose, long pants and high, thick leather or rubber boots.

• Shine a flashlight on your path when walking outside at night. Most snakes in the United States and Mexico rest or warm by day,

preferring dark places in very hot weather, and hunt / are more active from dusk to dawn.

• Never handle a snake, even if you think it is dead. Recently killed snakes may still bite by reflex.

Symptoms of Snakebite Envenomation (This can help determine what type of antivenin is needed, if any):

    Hemotoxic symptoms
Intense pain
Swelling (Edema)
Numbness or tingling
Rapid pulse
Bruising (Ecchymoses)
Muscle Contractions (fasciculations)
Loss of feeling in mouth (Paresthesia, oral)
Unusual metallic taste
Bleeding from nose or eyes, blood in urine

      Neurotoxic symptoms
Minimal pain
Drooping eyelids (Ptosis)
Paresthesia (often numb at bite site)
Double Vision or Blurred Vision (Diplopia)
Difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia)
Sweating (Diaphoresis)
Drooling (Salivation)
Loss of reflexes (Hyporeflexia)
Respiratory depression

Arizona Poison Control Center (has the most experience in the nation w/western & southwestern US/Mexico snake bites)

1-520-626-6016 1-800-362-0101

San Diego Regional Poison Control (Southern California) 1-800-876-4766

Texas Poison Control Center (TX & Louisiana) 1-800-764-7661

Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center (Colorado, Montana, Idaho) 1-800-726-3737

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Anti-venom Bank (Eastern US) 1-305-596-8576

National Poison Control Center referral (will default to closest major trauma center per area code/cell tower) 1-800-222-1222

Important Statistics to Remember:

Each year, approximately 8,000 venomous snakebites occur in the United States.

Only 0.2% (1 out of 500) venomous snakebites result in death

Roughly half of all venomous snakebites are "dry." That is, the snake does not inject venom into the victim.

   In the United States, 99 % of snakebites are caused by the Crotalidae (pitviper) family of snakes. The Crotalidae family includes the following snakes: rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths, or water moccasins.

These snakes are referred to as pit vipers because of small, heat-sensitive pits between the eye and the nostril that allow them to sense their prey.

A 20-year review of data from the National Vital Statistics Systems identified 97 fatalities. The state of Texas had the most fatalities (17), followed by Florida (14), and Georgia (12).

National statistics show 96% of bites were located on an extremity, 56% to the hand.

National studies report a seasonal occurrence bites, with 90% of all reported snakebites occurring from April to October (May: 1 bite out of every 25 cases; June to August: 19 bites out of every 25 cases; and September to October: 5 bites out of every 25 cases).


Venomous snakes of the United States


Banded rock
Diamondback (eastern and western)
Massasauga (eastern and western)
Mojave **
Mottled rock
Pacific (northern and southern)
Pigmy (southeastern and western)
Red diamond





     Coral snakes


** In the United States one species of rattlesnake, the Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus), can be very dangerous. The onset and progression of the symptoms may be rapid - check frequently to assure that breathing and other vital functions are not impaired. Carefully observe for any signs of impending respiratory paralysis that may be present. Be prepared to perform CPR as necessary. The Mojave Rattlesnake is olive green, large, and lives at altitudes up to 4800 ft. It prefers light brush and scrub habitats. It can be found from southern California to West Texas, and north to Nevada and portions of Colorado.

Images of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes of North America: http://www.pitt.edu/~mcs2/herp/SoNA.html


Bibliography & References:

Center for Disease Control (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/snakes/

American Academy of Family Physicians, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0401/p1367.html

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine/Dr. Davidson: Treatment Protocol for Snake Bite from Crotalus species;


University of California, San Diego School of Medicine/Dr. Davidson: “IMMEDIATE FIRST AID for bites by United States & Canadian Rattlesnakes (Crotalus species)”;


County of Santa Cruz, California: Emergency Medical Services Program – Acute Venomous Snakebite, Protocol No. E5-P (01/2007)


“Safety Protocols for Working with Venomous Snakes at Southeastern Louisiana University” by Drs. David Sever, Brian Crother, & Cliff Fontenot; November 2006; http://www.selu.edu/acad_research/depts/biol/pdf/SLU_Snake_Safety.pdf

Texas Dept of State Health Services; “Texas Venomous Snakes – This Bites” http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis/animal/bites/information/venom/snake/

Parting thoughts:

Per Arizona physician David Hardy, M.D., renowned snakebite expert; “Part of the problem is, when someone is bitten, there is an element of surprise. People often aren’t trained in what to do, and they are in a panic situation.”

He adds that being prepared – knowing IN ADVANCE what to do and having an effective plan to deal with snakebites; will lead to more effective care and greatly reduce anxiety.

Know the plan – use your head – save your life !!  Information from Conant R, Collina JT. “A field guide to reptiles & amphibians: eastern and central North America”. 3d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, and Stebbins RC. “A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians”: “Field marks of all species in western North America, including Baja California”. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

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