Believe it or not, rattlesnakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. They see humans as a potential predator and their typical defense is either to hide or to try to scare you away. If you come across a rattlesnake DO NOT try to move it or kill it. Handling or attempting to kill a snake greatly increases your likelihood of being bitten. Instead, back off quietly and let the snake retreat. If the snake is on a well-traveled hiking trail, keep an eye on it from a distance and alert other hikers until it retreats off the trail.  Also, rattlesnakes are an ecologically  important species on the plains and sage deserts of Wyoming.  Snakes keep rodent populations in balance and have benefits that cascade to many other plants and animals. 
You can greatly reduce your likelihood of encountering a rattlesnake by following a few simple steps:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Rattlesnakes like rocky areas, areas with lots of small mammals (e.g., river/stream corridors, prairie dog colonies), and rock, wood or other debris that provides cover during the heat of the day.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear sturdy boots and loose-fitting long pants when working or recreating in rattlesnake country. DO NOT wear sandals or flip-flops in rattlesnake country!
  • Stick to trails when hiking and avoid tall grass, weeds, heavy underbrush, woodpiles and rocky areas where snakes might be seeking shade.
  • Do not put your feet or hands where you cannot see. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, in case a snake is on the other side.  
  • Keep pets on a leash in rattlesnake country. Snakes see dogs as predators and will defend themselves as needed.
  • Have a reliable form of communication so you can call 911 immediately if you or someone you are with do get bitten by a rattlesnake.

Wendy Estes-Zumpf
Herpetological Coordinator


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