James Kirk Gardner
2012 is shaping up to be the biggest year for snake activity in northern Utah in a long time.
In an average year, the calls we know about are probably in the single digits. We've gotten so much as 12 calls in the last two months. —Clint Thacker, director of Davis County Animal Control

LAYTON — More and more, snakes are being spotted slithering through people's backyards.

Animal control officers in Davis County say the number of complaints about the dangerous reptiles is way up this year. According to experts, a number of factors could explain the increase, including the heat, wildfires, and even a very wet spring last year.

Either way, 2012 is shaping up to be the biggest year for snake activity in northern Utah in a long time.

Seeing a rattlesnake can be a frightening experience, especially when it’s in the backyard. That’s what happened to the Hill family in Layton last month.

"Five rattles, and it kind of sounded like a sprinkler at first,” said 14-year-old Heather Hill.

“Definitely scary,” added Heather’s sister Hannah. “Gotta admit, I didn’t want to mow the lawn for a while after.”

Their father discovered the rattler in the backyard of their home along the foothills of Layton. Later that same day, Merrilee Hill, the girls' mother, received word from a neighbor of another sighting.

"Our next-door neighbor called and said that she had one on her back porch, and it was about the same size," said Hill.

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah is home to eight rattlesnake subspecies. The most common is the Great Basin rattlesnake, which is found across the state.

The Hill family has lived in their Layton foothills home for more than a dozen years, but this was their first rattlesnake sighting. According to Davis County animal control, the same thing is happening in many hillside communities.

"In an average year, the calls we know about are probably in the single digits," said Clint Thacker, director of Davis County Animal Control. "We've gotten so much as 12 calls in the last two months."

Animal control officers say last year's wet spring produced more snakes, along with more rodents for the snakes to feed on. Many of the sightings near homes, experts say, are simply creatures looking for water and food. That offers little comfort to homeowners, but the Hill family is glad to know what to look out for.

"We're definitely more careful. The kids look and listen a little bit more," Merrilee Hill said.

Animal control officers say rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive. If someone sees one, the best thing they can do is back off and call animal control.