JEFFERSON COUNTY – As late summer begins to ease into early fall, the nights are getting cooler with hot, sunny days still beating down by lunchtime.
It's the perfect recipe to encounter a snake along one of Colorado's many trails and open space parks.
Visitor services supervisor Mary Ann Bonnell, with Jefferson County Open Space, says snakes are cold-blooded, so they enjoy basking in the sun to warm themselves after a chilly evening.
You'll see more of them come August or September soaking up the radiant heat from paths made of gravel or pavement warmed in the sun.
"Our schedules start to mesh with each other. We're trying to get out early on the trails as the days are still hot, they're trying to get out on the trail because they're chilly. So, that makes our calendars cross and increases our chances of running in to a snake," Bonnell said.
Colorado has three common types of snakes, and only the prairie rattlesnake is venomous, characterized by white stripes on its face and a tail that makes a rattling sound.
Most of the time, you can avoid a confrontation by giving the snake some time, and some space, to move off the path.
"Generally, that snake will make the decision to leave the area. They fear us much more than we fear them," Bonnell said, "If you don't have that opportunity, or somehow you've surprised the snake enough where it's escalating into kind of a hiss and posturing, then it may be a little tougher for that snake to leave the trail. Then what you want to do it move around the snake."
Bonnell recommends at least three to four feet of space, or even more to avoid a rattlesnake.
"Where people get injured is when they try to interact with a snake, maybe even trying to poke it with a stick or move it. If you think about that, that just agitates the snake and makes it less likely to move on," Bonnell recommended.
The other types of snakes in Colorado's front range are the Bullsnake and the Western Terrestrial Garter snake.
The Bullsnake can be commonly mistaken for a rattlesnake because its tail does move, but does not make any noise.
The Western Terrestrial Garter snake is smaller and can move very quickly.
Open Space officials suggest wearing closed-toed shoes while hiking and keeping your pets close by so they don't have a curious, but dangerous, encounter with a snake.
If you are bitten by a snake, have someone else take you to the nearest hospital immediately, and remain calm. Take off any rings or bracelets, as your extremities may swell.
Shock is a common symptom of a rattlesnake bite, which is why Bonnell says do not drive yourself to a medical provider after a bite.
For more visit http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06501.html.
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