Yuma, Arizona - Last week the Yuma Fire Department responded to 2 snake removal calls. Both snakes were rattlesnakes encountered after sundown at a park area along the river (native habitat). In both cases it was an area of minimal lighting and children were present.

It is estimated that nearly 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, which results in 8 to 15 deaths. It is very important to immediately seek medical treatment if you are ever bitten by a venomous snake. According to the University of Arizona’s College of Pharmacy, there are 17 different species or subspecies of rattlesnakes in Arizona, and all are venomous. Here are some precautions you can take to greatly reduce the chance of being bitten by a snake (suggested by the College of Pharmacy):

Leave wild animals alone. 50 to 70% of reptile bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center were provoked by the person who was bitten--that is, someone was trying to kill, capture or harass the animal.

Be aware of peak movement times. Reptiles in Arizona are most active in the warmer months of April through October. During the hottest months, they will be most active at night. They may be encountered during the day in spring and fall or during a warm day in winter.

Watch where you put your hands and feet. Try to keep your hands and feet out of crevices in rocks, wood piles and deep grass. Always carry a flashlight and wear shoes or boots when walking after dark.

Dead snakes can bite. Never handle a venomous reptile, even after its dead. Reflex strikes with injected venom can occur for several hours after death.

Finally, be sure of your lighting. Utilize your installed lighting around yards, porches and sidewalks. Carry and use flashlights in areas without installed lighting. If you see a venomous reptile in your yard, it is probably just "passing thru". However, if you are concerned about a dangerous animal in your yard, seek professional assistance in removing it.

For more information about fire and injury prevention classes we offer, contact the Yuma Fire Department Public Information Office at 928-373-4855.