The outlying areas of Spanish Springs and areas in northeast Sparks are susceptible to rattlesnake sightings, especially during the cooler parts of the day, according to Nevada Department of WIldlife Public Information Officer Chris Healy. He said rattlesnakes will seek out any green vegetation or water sources because small rodents will gravitate there, and with such dry conditions, water sources can be hard to find.
“We have heard reports over the years where people find them in their garages on the cool of the cement, and there is your hint,” Healy said. “They are searching out shade and cool spots. You can find them in your shrubberies adjacent to your house or on your green lawn because it is cool.
“In a year like this, where water sources are hard to find, it is a drought year and everything is drying up quickly with these temperatures. People who live on the edges of Spanish Springs need to be really aware that snakes are a potential challenge.”
A total of 27 phone calls regarding snakes have come in this year to NDOW, according to Healy, with June tallying highest at 12 calls and three coming in so far in July. Healy said seven of the calls are confirmed rattlesnake sightings while the rest were about bull or garter snakes, which are non-poisonous, rather than rattlesnakes. He added that snakes are hunting deer mice, field rats and ground squirrels.
A report by NDOW and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension titled “Venomous Reptiles in Nevada” stated 52 species of snakes and lizards reside in Nevada, 12 of which are considered venomous. Of the venomous 12, six are considered “dangerous to people and pets.”
Nevada is home to five poisonous snakes, including the Sidewinder, Mohave, Speckled, Western Diamondback and Great Basin rattlesnakes, the report said. The snakes range from one and a half to four feet long. The Great Basin rattlesnake is the only venomous snake which makes its home in Washoe County. The other venomous reptiles, including the four aforementioned snakes and the Banded Gila Monster (venomous lizard), live in the southern half of the state extending as far north as Mineral County.
“It is very important to remember that rattlesnakes do not always rattle their tails in warning, and a rattle does not always precede a strike,” the report said.
Healy said water sources in Sparks and Spanish Springs will likely keep the rattlesnakes around for the remainder of the summer, as well as other animals seeking water and refuge. He said residents should not be the only ones on the lookout for rattlesnakes when outdoors in open areas of Sparks.
“One of the big challenges people face is not necessarily with humans,” he said, “Although humans do want to be careful and aware of rattlesnakes, if you are taking a morning hike, those snakes are going to be the most active during the times when it is not hot. If you are taking the family pet, it is going to be the one that is going to be in the most danger of being curious around the snake.
“When you are making noise out there on the trail, a lot of animals hear you and get out of your way, and that is usually a good thing. If you are walking silently you can sneak up on and surprise animals, which is when you will have a problem.”
Rattlesnake Avoidance Training is available in Reno by the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Reno, which combines the expertise of dog trainers with certified snake handlers to help dogs avoid their piqued curiosity and keep from being bitten. Training will be held July 13 and 14 in Reno and more information is available at www.gspcofreno.com.
One-tenth of 1 percent of venomous snake bites are deadly in the United States annually, according to the NDOW and UNR Cooperative Extension report. Some tips from the report include: learn to identify, use caution, check under your car on hot days, watch your step getting out of the boat, carry a flashlight when walking at night.
If bitten, immobilize the victim with the wound below the heart, keep the victim calm and watch for unusual reactions, try to identify the snake and get the victim to medical personnel.
“If you hear the rattles, don’t go up to the snakes and stay still and get out of the way,” Healy said. “Give the snake a chance to get out of the way and they usually will. If you find them closer to home or in your garage then take extra precautions. If you live out there, there are more chances to run across them.”