SALT LAKE CITY — The warmer weather is coming to Utah, and that has a lot of people looking to get outside and enjoy it. But people aren't the only ones out there enjoying the sun.
Wildlife officials say within the next couple of weeks, snakes — especially rattlesnakes — will be coming out of hibernation.
James Dix, also known as "Snake Man," runs Reptile Rescue Service, Inc., a company created in 1998 with the goal of saving unwanted, abused, injured, orphaned and legally seized reptiles and amphibians.
Dix and his employees work to save the reptiles by providing public education programs, training sessions for law enforcement officials, and free rattlesnake removal for residents and businesses across the Wasatch Front. "It's for the love of the animals," Dix said.
As comfortable as Dix is around the reptiles, he knows a lot of people aren't. He also knows most people don't know what to do if they come across one.
- Remain calm.
- Stay at least five 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.
- Alert people to the snake's location. Keep children and pets away.
The most important thing to do if you encounter a snake, Dix said, is to steer clear of it, and definitely don't grab your shovel.
"Some people think when you chop the head off, it can't ingest venom. The head can bite for 6 hours from nerves."
Dix said a lot of people confuse harmless gopher snakes for rattlesnakes. While they look similar, there are differences.
A rattlesnakes head is wider than its body, Dix explained, while a gopher snakes head is about the same size as its body. And rattlesnake has a rattle; a gopher snake, of course, does not.
In fact, you can tell a lot about the danger of a snake in Utah just by looking at its tail.
"All our snakes that have a pointed tail are harmless snakes," Dix said.
Contributing: Jordan Ormond