Snake Safety Tips For Runners

Running outdoors can add variety to your routine and give you a fun, challenging workout. Taking your workout outside, however, also comes with some less desirable factors including unwanted guests such as snakes, critters and creepy crawlers.

Don't let a fear of snakes keep you from running on your favorite trails. These safety and care tips will help prepare you in the event you do encounter a snake.

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Snake Safety Tips

Educate yourself about the types of snakes found in your area. This way you will know what to look for, which types of snakes are dangerous, and what you can do if you come in contact with one.

"I highly recommend that runners take a minute to learn what types of venomous snakes are found in the area they live or plan to visit," says Terry Phillips, a snake expert from Reptile Gardens in South Dakota. "People should learn how to differentiate between the harmless snakes and dangerous snakes that are native to different areas."

There are four types of venomous snakes in the United States: Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, Copperhead and Coral.

Four different types of rattlesnakes can be found in California: Red Diamond, Southern Pacific, South Western Speckled and Sidewinder.

The telltale sign of a dangerous snake is of course the rattle; if a snake tail appears pointy, it's generally not dangerous.

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"The other thing to look for is a very wide head; rattlesnakes have a triangular—shaped head," says David Phillips a member of the San Diego Herpetological Society. "If the head of a snake tapers smoothly into the body, it's not dangerous."

Snakes favor warmer temperatures because they are ectothermic, and they require heat to warm their bodies. This means you are most likely to encounter a snake on trails from late spring through early fall.

"As summer rolls in and the temperatures get higher, rattlesnakes start becoming active in the early morning hours, evening and overnight," Phillip says, "much like our own outdoor activity periods."

What to Do if You See a Snake

If you see a snake while hiking or running, do not panic! Back away slowly and look for a way around. Snakes will generally leave you alone if they are not provoked.

"Simply left alone, snakes will continue on with their nomadic lifestyles," Phillip says. "Rattlesnakes do not actively seek out confrontations with any of their natural enemies, humans included. The number one reason people are bitten by venomous snakes throughout this country is because of the attempt to catch, kill, or tease them when we find them."

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