CREATED Mar 27, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Venomous snakes are now slithering in your backyard, in the bushes or even up in trees.
A Green Valley man found that out the painful way Tuesday morning. The local fire district told 9 On Your Side the 67-year-old was doing yard work when he was bit. Crews couldn’t find the culprit, but know it was a venomous snake because of the swelling and bite on his finger.
The man was taken to the hospital and became the eighth victim reported to Tucson poison control this year. Arizona's "bite and sting season,” normally starting in April, has begun.
“No doubt in my mind that it started early,” said Capt. Adam Goldberg of Northwest Fire/Rescue District. “We have consistent temperatures in the mid to high 80s even, touching 90 degrees now.”
“When the temperature rises enough in the desert, (it gets) a lot of our reptiles active as well as our insects,” added Keith Boesen, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “That usually falls between the warming up months of, say, April and then our biggest cool down is in October.” Boesen said his agency’s counting of bites this year is comparable to this time last year.
During that “bite and sting season,” snakes are busy slinking around and humans need to be aware.
“The classic saying is 'don't put your hand where your eyes can't see,'” Boesen said. “Don't reach into areas that you're not sure what's there.”
“As people are taking walks in the early evening, have a flash light with them so they can always look ahead to where they're walking,” Goldberg added. “As nighttime falls, it cools off. The snakes are looking to have places which stay warm and that's concrete. Concrete retains heat from the day so they're looking for back patios, front door areas, inside garages. When someone opens up the door to go get their paper, before they actually step out, take a look.”
Even when you're careful, serpents can still strike. Your reaction might be to do something, to perform some kind of first aid, or use a device marketed as a “snake bite kit.” But that's not what the Poison and Drug Information Center recommends.
“Don't do anything,” Boesen said. “Don't cut it. Don't suck it. No ice. No tourniquets. Nothing you do before you go the hospital is going to improve your outcome. It’s only going to potentially make it worse.”
Boesen recommends staying calm and calling 9-1-1. “We do want people in the hospital and everyone bit by a rattlesnake needs to be in the emergency room,” he said because hospitals know the symptoms, have the anti-venom treatment and know when to use it. He added the anti-venom is not in short supply, despite rumors.
Both Tucson Fire Department and Northwest Fire told 9 On Your Side you can call them when a venomous snake is in your backyard, but they only take care of removing it when it's in your home or trapped in your backyard and cannot get out on its own. If the snake is in your yard and has a way out, they'll refer you to a private company, which you can pay to remove it.