I basically agree with Escoce's answer but you should give the snake a little more time. In the most cases it tries to avoid you and will flee as soon as you come too near.
The best thing to do is just avoid it completely. If you can't go
around because the brush is too thick. Then find a plenty long enough
stick and get it off the path.
If it really doesn't want to move the really long stick is a good option.
Yes, they're out there, but it's fairly uncommon to come across a
snake while on a trail run—and even less common to have a problem with
one if you do. But, if you're wondering how to best handle an
encounter with a slithery friend, read on.
We consulted with Alan Williams, ecologist at Shenandoah National
Park, where 10 or so common species—including the venomous northern
copperhead and timber rattlesnakes—roam in the wild. This is his sage
Q: Most people want to know, first and foremost, what they should do
if they encounter a snake on a trail. A: "Giving it a wide berth is
the best thing to do. Let it be. Don't provoke it. It'll likely try to
get away from you as quickly as possible.
We tell visitors: If you're in a busy place where you're trying to
help the snake from getting run over, use something really long to
shoo it off the trail—a long stick. Don't pick it up, even if you
think it's not poisonous. They will try to get away. Don't corner
Snakes likely try to defend themselves if they're cornered or
harassed. Bites are mostly reported by people who've been playing with
snakes. But for a hiker or runner, the chances are very slim."
Truthfully, it’s best to give any snake a wide berth. Rattlesnakes, of course, are venomous and generally easy to identify (more on this below), but to be safe you should always assume a snake in the wild is venomous. And anyway, the bite of a nonvenomous snake can still be extremely painful and may cause infection.
First, quickly observe the snake’s posture. A coiled rattler that is audibly shaking its tail (rattle) is probably preparing to strike. Or, at the very least, none too pleased.
If this is the case, back away quickly but carefully — you don’t want to trip and fall in your haste to get away.
However, while a snake may strike across a greater distance if coiled, snakes can attack from any posture. Further, don’t assume the lack of an audible rattle indicates the snake is sleeping, ignoring you, blind and deaf, or full. A rattlesnake may rattle only a bit—or not at all—before striking. Also, a young rattlesnake may have an undeveloped rattle.
Do not attempt to poke or prod the snake with a stick or other object in an attempt to get it to move out of your way. This will only annoy the snake and make it more likely to strike. The best solution is to wait until it clears the trail.
Once it starts to leave, visually follow its progress to make sure it’s far from the trail before you continue on your way.
Most snakes can strike a distance of half their body length. This means if you encounter a six-foot snake, it can easily attack any object within a three-foot radius, with zero warning. For this reason, it’s best to wear thick hiking boots, which may prevent fangs from piercing your skin.
Be aware of when and where you are most likely to encounter a rattlesnake. You are most likely to encounter rattlesnakes when you are hiking, climbing, camping, or even walking to see a tourist monument.
Most rattlesnakes prefer hot environments, with some preferring desert climates but others, such as the Eastern Diamondback, prefer a moist climate. The majority live in the southern United States and Mexico, although some are found in Canada's Badlands desert region in Alberta and in British Columbia around Hedley, Keremeos, and Osoyoos.
Rattlesnakes like summer evenings the best, just as the sun is going down and when it has gone — they are most active nocturnally in summertime. This just happens to coincide with the frailty of human eyesight kicking in as the sun goes down, so take care. Use a flashlight when walking about and wear good footwear.
Rattlesnakes like warm days, period. Be it any season of the year, even winter, a rattlesnake can venture out in search of the warmth — suitable air temperature for rattlesnakes is around 70° and 90°F (21° to 32°C).
Most rattlesnakes are not generally sitting about in the open — if they are in the open, they are moving through it much of the time. Rattlesnakes want to avoid contact with predators who can easily spot them in the open, including humans and large animals. As such, you will most likely encounter rattlesnakes around rocks, shrub and brush, or wherever there are nooks for them to hide among. However, on sunny days, you might find rattlesnakes warming themselves on warm rocks or asphalt.
Dress appropriately. When in rattlesnake country, do not be blasé about clothing — the majority of bites occur on the hands, feet and ankles. So, apart from not sticking your hands where they shouldn't be, clothing becomes an important protection ally:
Toss the sandals — this is time for good quality, thick hiking boots, and decent socks. Over the ankle boots are best, as ankle bites are common. Do not wear sandals, open-toed shoes or bare feet when walking in the desert. There are more things than rattlesnakes awaiting your foolhardiness if you do.
Wear long, loose-fitting pants.
Use gaiters if possible, especially if you choose not to wear long pants.
Behave appropriately when hiking, climbing, walking. When in rattlesnake territory, think like a rattlesnake to keep your mind on how they might behave so that you can behave accordingly:
Always hike with at least one buddy. If you are alone and bitten, you will be in dire trouble. Carry a cell phone that works and alert family or friends of your intended hiking course and duration.
Stay out of the way. The easiest way to avoid rattlesnakes is to keep out of their way. Keep alert as you hike, walk, and climb. Stick to well-used trails and do not wander off into tall grass, underbrush and weeds where rattlesnakes may be hiding.
Do not stick your hands in the wrong places. Don't stick your hands down holes, under rocks and ledges or even into brush when you are walking around. These are key hiding places for rattlesnakes. When hiking, it is best to carry a sturdy staff, or at least a long, sturdy and light stick, to help prevent using your hands in areas where snakes may hide.
Don't sit down on tree stumps or logs without first checking inside. You might just be sitting on a rattlesnake....
Step on and not over. When you need to cross logs and rocks, it is sensible to step on the objects rather than straight over them. This way, you can spot a rattlesnake that may be sheltering under it and can take evasive action quickly.
Look before you leap. Take care where you land your feet. A foot coming straight down next to, or on top of a snake is asking for a bite. Snakes rely on vibration to hear and while they can sense you coming if you have stomped about loudly enough, they cannot deal with removing themselves fast enough if you blaze up a trail quickly and provide little warning of your approach.
When walking, carry a stick, and whack bushes and undergrowth a bit before you walk on/near them, and snakes will get away. They'll go under bushes or thick grass immediately, so don't put your feet in/on those places! If you must step on those hiding places, probe them a bit first with your stick, so the snake has a chance to get away.
Move out of the way. If you do walk into the range of a rattlesnake, calmly back off as quickly and quietly as you can.
Take care around water. Rattlesnakes can swim. Anything resembling a long stick might be a rattlesnake.
Do not provoke a rattlesnake. Angering a snake will result in one response — you become its target. Remember — a snake is defending itself from attack in such a case and if you poke it with sticks, throw stones at it, kick at it or do silly little jigs around it, you are asking for trouble. And worse still, there may well be a difference in the venom between an angered rattlesnake and one reacting quickly in self-defence — the toxicity may be increased, whereas a surprised rattlesnake may only bite without injecting venom (possible, not certain). Whatever the strength of the venom, an angered rattlesnake will be more likely to keep striking.
Leave the snake alone. Many people are bitten in the process of trying to heroically rid the world of one more bothersome snake. Apart from the snake not being bothersome, the snake is going to bite you to try to defend itself. Live and let live — back off and let it have its space to slither away. And be warned — there is a reason for the saying "as mad as a cut snake" — an injured snake is a very, very dangerous foe.
Former Marine and current ready hiker, Chris shares comments on how to properly prepare for encounters with Snakes On A Trail. We show you what we have to help you in your hiking adventures. Remember, don’t be that guy. Be a ready hiker.