Defense Against Rattlesnakes

Many people on the internet boast about keeping snake shot in a revolver for shooting snakes on sight, but as we discussed in our previous post on defense against wildlife. Using a firearm against wildlife can carry some considerable burdens, including reasonableness, the elements of deadly force, the use of force continuum and the duty to report the incident to Arizona Game and Fish. The best form of defense against snakes, is not a firearm.

  • Rattlesnakes, when startled, will use its rattle as a first defense to warn you of its presence.
  • Rattlesnakes will not chase you. They have a top speed of about 3 mph.
  • They can strike up to 2/3’s of their body length, most are less than 6 feet long so 6 feet is a good safe distance.
  • Do not handle rattlesnakes, live or dead.
  • Slowly move away from the snake and alert others of its presence.

Since a snake can not chase you and you have to be closer than about 6 feet for it to be of immediate risk to you (which is arguably too close to discharge a firearm without risk of ricochet injuring yourself or another), firearms just aren’t the most reasonable form of defense. In your yard, a good shovel will do the trick just fine. But I suggest simply walking away.

If a snake happens to catch you by surprise, and bites you, follow these first aid tips.

What to do if a rattlesnake bite occurs:

  • Remain calm and reassure the victim.
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, etc. from affected area.
  • Immobilize extremity and keep at level below the heart.
  • Decrease total body activity as is feasible.
  • Move victim to medical facility without delay.

What NOT to do if a rattlesnake bite occurs:

  • Do NOT apply ice to bite area.
  • Do NOT use incision of any kind.
  • Do NOT use a constriction band or tourniquet.
  • Do NOT administer alcohol or drugs.
  • Do NOT use electric shock treatment