SALT LAKE CITY — Coming across a rattlesnake in the wild — or in your yard — can be a frightening experience.
But it doesn't have to be, said Krissy Wilson, native aquatic species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
When you encounter a rattlesnake, the way you act will likely determine what happens next. Like most animals, rattlesnakes fear humans. "They'll usually do everything they can to avoid us," Wilson said in a statement.
If you encounter a rattlesnake while hiking, Wilson recommends the following:
• Remain calm.
• Stay at least 5 feet from the snake.
• Do not try to kill the snake. Doing so is illegal and greatly increases the chance the snake will bite you. Wilson says most venomous bites happen when untrained people try to kill or harass a snake. "Usually, the snake is simply moving through the area, sunning itself or looking for a place to hide," she says. "If you leave the snake alone, it will leave you alone."
• Alert people to the snake's location. Advise them to use caution and to respect the snake. Keep children and pets away.
Aside from building a fence that rattlesnakes can't penetrate, Wilson says the following are the best ways to keep rattlesnakes out of your yard:
• Reduce the number of places that provide snakes with shelter. Get rid of brush, wood, rock and junk piles.
• Control rodent populations. Bird feeders and water are two of the main items that draw rodents to yards.
• Avoid scaring away harmless snake species, such as gopher snakes. Having other snake species in your yard may deter rattlesnakes from wandering through.
For more information on living with venomous reptiles, log on to swparc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/living_w_venomous_reptiles_small.pdf.