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Rattlesnakes are waking up hungry in Arizona, so keep ears, eyes open

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PHOENIX – If you live, work or play where rattlesnakes roam in Arizona, it’s time to be on high alert.

You never want to mess with a rattler, but the venomous reptiles can be more of a threat than usual as the weather warms and they emerge from hibernation with empty stomachs.

“When they’re hungry, they’re very unpredictable,” Capt. Rob McDade of the Phoenix Fire Department told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday. “In the middle of the summer they’re dangerous, but right now they’re even more dangerous because they’re in that absolute feast mode.”

Although cooler temperatures and rain are in the forecast this week, McDade said rattlesnake activity typically starts in mid-March and continues until November.

“It’s beginning to be snake season,” he said. “Just be alert, be aware. Make sure you keep your eyes and ears open.”

McDade said there are ways people can avoid a potentially painful, or even deadly, encounter.

He said the most dangerous thing you can do is reach blindly into a bush while doing yard work or retrieving a ball.

And don’t depend only on your ears to keep you safe, he added.

“People always rely on ‘Well they’re going to rattle before they strike,’” he said. “But that’s not true. So they have times where they will just strike you reaching in.”

McDade said it’s important for people to keep their eyes down during hikes or while walking through desert areas.

“Be looking for them, because they’re out there,” he said. “Sometimes people say, ‘Oh my goodness, I stepped right over the snake. I wasn’t even looking where I was walking.’”

McDade said it’s a good idea to wear heavy footwear, particularly leather boots, and stay on established trails while hiking.

“If you’re off the trail, you’re cutting through an area, walking through bushes, you’re going to find them; they’re not going to find you,” he said.

That’s because rattlesnakes don’t want anything to do with humans and only bite to protect themselves.

“If you get struck by a snake, it’s a defense mechanism from that snake that feels that you are a threat to them,” McDade said.

And don’t forget about your dog. McDade said it’s important to keep your furry friends on a leash so they are less likely to encounter rattlesnakes.

Another option is to use a service that trains dogs to avoid the danger.

“They’re highly recommended,” McDade said of the services. “From what we’ve been told there’s a great success rate with them.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report.

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