9

I plan to start doing some hunting in the greater southern Nevada Mojave desert (say within a 2 hour drive of Las Vegas).

I know that while hiking, there is some "safety" from snakes because you are alerting them to your presence with your steps and things like that. But what about when you are hunting and movement and silence are important? What are some of the precautions I should take from snakes while I'm sitting in a blind? I plan on hunting coyote from a turkey chair, so I will be pretty close to the ground. I've never seen one in the wild, but I've heard that the green mojave rattlesnake can be relatively aggressive. Any thoughts on this?

9

As you specifically mentioned Southern Nevada Mojave Desert, if you come across a snake and considering the worst case its a venomous snake, then its very likely to be a Rattlesnake or a Side Winder or an Adder.

The best way to avoid trouble with venomous reptiles is to be aware of your surroundings and observe some rules for your own safety. Most bites result from deliberate harassment of reptiles.

If you are sitting in a blind and may not make much movement, at least you should select a place to sit in a blind considering the potential habitats for these snakes and other species as well.

  • Do not pick a blind spot very near to a Bush, Cacti or a pile of stones.
  • Determine safety from a distance before placing hands or feet atop or among rocks or crevices

They are all members of the Viperidae family, the pit vipers. There is reason why they are called pit vipers, all these snakes have a pair of pits that help them get the heat signatures and even the fractions of temperature changes within a few feet distance. There is also a Jacobson's Organ, which perceives the chemical data received by flipping of their tongue every now and then. (Not exactly the smell, but chemical data is perceived as smell, that said, Snakes can't sniff, literally!). The data from these two Vomeronasal Organs together is what the snake use to estimate the distance between it and the prey.

Additional minute details of how it happens, which you can afford to skip reading as its not necessarily important in here with this answer: When the tongue is flicked out into the air, receptors on the tongue pick up minuscule chemical particles, which are perceived as scent. When the tongue is retracted into its sheath, the tips of the tongue fit neatly into the Jacobson's organ, sending the chemical information that has been gathered through the organ and to the brain, where the information is quickly processed and analyzed so that the snake can act promptly on it.

The point is:

  1. If you follow safety instructions (probably issued by authority there who know the snake better than I do) and are very careful about picking the place such that your best bet is avoiding their area of interest/habitat, you should not come across one.
  2. Now, you checked the place, confirmed that there is no snake, you sit in a blind for hours. Does the safety followed earlier makes sure that no snakes comes there? Of course, it can't be guaranteed. But, with the kind of sensing organs they have and their typical behavior says that, they'll see you before you see them. And, they are more on the defensive side than being on the curious side of an animal.
  3. But, God forbid, if at all a rattlesnake comes around you, its likely that unless you are paying very close attention towards it, you won't see it since it camouflages itself so well, but you will hear it. Pay attention to the typical rattle noise, just as you hear it, take a careful look around, avoid panicked rapid movements and slowly get away from it at least a 15 feet, let it pass, do not try killing it or messing with it.
  4. I've never been hunting so this sitting in a blind scenario did make me think about how could you avoid them. In case if you have a companion, use the other person as a dedicated spotter who can spot snakes and other potential threats more carefully and frequently than you will, You can keep your eye peeled for the thing you are hunting, while your spotter ensures that nothing comes closer. Though the risk is there with Side Winders since they are so small and perfectly camouflaged with the land.
  5. Check with the local authority for details about the area of prominence, where the are spotted more frequently, their meeting seasons, etc. Avoid their mating season. During the mating season, and just before the season of hibernation, they tend to travel more distance than they usually do, and obviously are far more aggressive than they normally are. If I were you, I'd definitely avoid that season.

On a lighter note, irrelevant to this question: Its not only a snake than can cause you trouble there, spiders? Scorpions?

Have a safe one!

  • 2
    Great answer, thank you! Also, indeed, I hadn't really considered other things such as the brown recluse spider. I'll have to think about that. Also, you make a good point about rocks. My plan is to set up around rocks because it makes blinds easier to build. So I will have to pay special attention to the rocks I choose. – Unknown Coder Sep 8 '14 at 14:43
  • 1
    Good answer, +1. How come a guy from India knows so much about the Mojave desert? Have you visited there? – Olin Lathrop Aug 25 '15 at 21:35
  • @OlinLathrop: Thanks Olin. No, I haven't been there, but I have studies Rattlesnakes very keenly over the years. The Viperdae snakes that are found in India (Russell's Viper, Bamboo-Pit Viper and Saw-Scaled Viper) inhibit almost same properties apart from that Iconic Rattle at the tail. Rest of the habits, habitats are almost same. I come across those snakes at least once a week. I had been a part of the local animal rescue team half a decade ago, so I have had experiences with Viper snakes. – WedaPashi Aug 26 '15 at 4:46
  • ...*studied.... – WedaPashi Aug 27 '15 at 8:21
5

I'm no herpetologist, but in my experience, snakes are in the "you don't bug me, I won't bug you" category. If you're sitting in a blind and are still, you aren't likely to surprise them. Surprising a snake or making it feel endangered is what causes most bites. If you're still, they'll tend to just pass by without bothering you, and will likely detect you well before you detect them.

5

It would be unusual for a snake to attack a stationary person. I suppose it's possible that a snake might approach you or your shelter to try to get warm, and you could then surprise them after they had already settled down near you.

I'm guessing there is no coyote season in Nevada, so you could be doing it any time of year. If it's the winter, snakes are likely to be hibernating. I suppose in the early spring, when snakes are coming out of hibernation and actively searching for food, might be the most likely time to encounter a snake if you are stationary.

I've spent plenty of time out in the Mojave desert, and the vast majority of the snakes I've seen have not been venomous. I've never had a snake do anything other than 1) nothing or 2) try to get away from me, usually by moving just far enough away that it felt safe.

I agree that scorpions might be a bigger concern. Desert recluses and black widows are obviously dangerous, but unlikely to move to you after you're already set up and stationary - you're more likely to encounter them when you are setting up or taking down your blind, assuming you're setting up on or next to a rock pile.

  • 1
    I agree that a stationary person is very unlikely to be bitten by a snake. Snakes bite people because they feel threatened. A sitting person that they slithered up on wouldn't be very threatening. The highest danger in the desert is yahoos with guns, especially after having downed a sixpack. I've spent significant time in the Mojave Desert of AZ. While I've only seen snakes at a distance and running away, I've had a bullets fly by my me close enough to hear the whistling noise. The yahoos were shooting randomly and didn't know I was there. – Olin Lathrop Aug 25 '15 at 21:41
  • @Olin: Glad that you didn't get shot. I don't understand these yahoos. Who are they? – WedaPashi Aug 27 '15 at 8:24
  • @Weda: Yahoos is a name for the type of people who get rowdy and have little regard for anyone else or nature. When you find them outdoors, they won't be far from a beer cooler and the pickup truck they drove to get there. Favorite pastimes are downing beer, making a lot of noise, driving the pickup over whatever they can to flatten it, and shooting off guns. Especially after a few beers, they're not particular about what they shoot at. Go to Arizona and you'll see most every road sign, cactus, and jack rabbit has bullet holes. – Olin Lathrop Aug 28 '15 at 13:14
  • @OlinLathrop: Oh, seriously? And government doesn't do anything about them? – WedaPashi Aug 28 '15 at 13:43
  • @WedaPashi: how's the government going to patrol several hundred square miles of remote desert? – Michael Martinez Aug 28 '15 at 17:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.