Snake Q & A

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT RATTLESNAKES IN UTAH:

 

The only snakes in Utah that are potentially dangerous to humans are rattlesnakes, and the Great Basin rattler is the only venomous snake along the Wasatch Front. Rattlesnake encounters are common in Utah’s great outdoors, but when you find one in your yard or home, you need to have it removed by a licensed professional.

“How do I know if the snake in my yard is venomous?”

Utah has seven species of rattlesnakes, all of which are small, docile, and essentially non-lethal with treatment. But if a snake has a pointed tail (no rattle) it is completely harmless to humans.

“Do rattlesnakes always rattle to let us know they’re there?”

No. A rattler may me sleeping, its rattle may have broken off, or it may not have a fully developed rattle. Also, many harmless snakes vibrate their tails when they feel threatened. This includes the Great Basin gopher snake, which is often mistaken for a rattlesnake.

“Are there Diamondback rattlesnakes in Utah?”

No. Diamondbacks do not occur in Utah. We don’t have copperheads, cottonmouths or coral snakes either.

“Is it true that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than big ones because they can’t ‘control’ their venom?”

No. A baby rattler may be more likely to strike in self-defense, but smaller snakes have a smaller quantity of venom, making a bite from a small snake less dangerous. Also, a snake that strikes defensively is unlikely to deliver its entire venom yield because it needs venom to subdue its prey, otherwise it can’t eat for a while. This applies to large snakes and small snakes equally.

“What should I do if there are harmless snakes in my yard?”

Leave them alone! Snakes are opportunistic predators, meaning that they’ll go where the food is. If you have snakes in your yard, they are eating insects, mice, gophers, voles, rats, etc. Once the food is gone, they’ll go somewhere else. In the meantime, they’re providing a valuable service!

“How do I get rid of rodents?”

If you don’t want snakes in your yard, get rid of the things that attract rodents and other pests. Pet food, bird seed, food scraps, garbage, brush piles, and thick vegetation are a welcome invitation to rodents. If you don’t have rodents, you probably won’t have snakes either, at least not for long.

“What should I do if there is a rattlesnake in my yard?”

Keep an eye on it. This makes it easier for us to locate the snake when we arrive. Don’t try to catch it or move it yourself, and don’t kill it. Call 801-599-0922 in Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele, Summit and northern Utah County, and one of our professional relocators will capture it safely and return it to native habitat in accordance with state wildlife laws. We also specialize in the removal and placement of  exotic, injured, abandoned or escaped snakes and other reptiles.

Never kill a snake! It just doesn’t make sense! Snakes are important members of the biotic community and Utah law prohibits the killing of native snakes.

 

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT GREAT BASIN RATTLESNAKES:

The Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is Utah’s most prevalent rattler. As one of seven Utah rattlesnake species, it is the only species found statewide and in a variety of habitats from desert valleys to timberline elevations as high as 8,000 feet above sea level.

Great Basin rattlesnakes are quite benign in both temperament and toxicity. Like most snakes, they are reclusive and will usually retreat if given the chance. They are reluctant to strike unless provoked, and human fatalities are extremely rare. People are most often bitten while trying to kill, capture or taunt one of these gentle serpents.

Seldom exceeding 5 feet in length, this is the only venomous species found in northern Utah and the populated areas of the Wasatch Front. They often find their way into hillside neighborhoods that have encroached into their domain. Like all of Utah’s snakes, they are protected by state law from wanton killing. Females give birth to 6 to 12 live young in late summer.

Great Basin rattlers come in a wide array of colors, even within the same locale. Because of this, they are easily mistaken for other species. Like most of Utah’s rattlesnakes, they are considered to be a subspecies of the Western rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis).