Devin Wagner, Associated Press
A Western rattlesnake sits on a rock in its cage at the Draper Museum of Natural History in Cody, Wyo., May 29, 2012.
I remove rattlesnakes for Reptile Rescue Service and it's a busy year. Hot weather, fires and exploding rodent populations have lured snakes into residential areas all along the Wasatch Front.
Great Basin rattlesnakes are quite benign, both in temperament and toxicity. They don't want an encounter with us any more than most people want to meet one of them. These local rattlers are actually very reclusive and will usually retreat if given the chance. They are reluctant to bite unless provoked, and even if someone gets bitten, human fatalities are extremely rare.
It is against state law to kill rattlesnakes, and for good reason. These amazing reptiles are one of the few barriers between us and the vermin that would destroy our food crops and spread diseases like rabies and the hantavirus. Snakes perform this task silently and thanklessly, and all they ask in return is to be left alone. If you meet one on a trail, go around him. If you see one in your yard, have it removed by a professional. Reptile Rescue provides this service for free in the Salt Lake Valley.
Remember, if a snake has a pointed tail, it's not a rattlesnake. In Utah, only rattlesnakes are venomous, and they have an obvious rattle on the end of their tails. All other snakes are harmless, and although some of them will vibrate their tails too, they don't look or sound like rattlesnakes.
People are most often bitten while trying to kill, capture or provoke a snake. So be nice to snakes and they'll be nice to you.
David E. Jensen
Utah's Reptile Rescue Service