Girl bitten by rattlesnake while hiking in the Gila Box

By Jon Johnson

GRAHAM COUNTY – A 12-year-old girl was taken by ambulance to the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center on Friday after being bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking.

According to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office report, the victim and her family were hiking along a trail in the Gila Box area just after 5 p.m. when the girl was bitten by a rattlesnake on her big toe.

After calling for medical assistance, the family drove out of the Gila Box area and met up with a deputy as they were on their way to the hospital. The deputy advised the family to follow him until they came upon Lifeline Ambulance just west of the Freeport-McMoRan lab on Sanchez Road. The girl was then transported by the EMTs to MGRMC for treatment.

When speaking with the victim’s father, the man advised that his daughter didn’t provoke the snake and that she was just bitten while they were hiking.

A rattlesnake can strike one-third to one-half of its overall length and may strike faster than one would expect.

If one does get bitten by a rattlesnake, try to stay calm as moving about unnecessarily will spread about the venom more quickly. Keep the bite lower than the victim’s heart and get them to a hospital as soon as possible.

Tips to avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake

  1. Know your snake. Rattlesnakes in Arizona are generally tan and brown patchwork with a flat, triangular head with openings between the nostrils and eyes. They generally have a rattle at the end, however, young rattlesnakes often only have a few parts of the rattler formed and it may be broken off on older snakes.
  2. Be aware of where you may encounter a rattlesnake. Most rattlesnakes prefer a hot environment and are most active nocturnally during the summertime. They like summer evenings the best, just as the sun is going down.
  3. Dress appropriately when hiking in the desert. Always wear closed-toe shoes or hiking boots with thick socks. Also, wear loose-fitting pants if possible.
  4. Behave appropriately while hiking. Always hike with a buddy and stick to well-used trails. Do not wander off into tall grass, underbrush, and weeds where rattlesnakes may be hiding. Do not stick your hands down a hole, under rocks, or into the brush.
  5. Do not provoke a rattlesnake. If you encounter a rattlesnake, back away as quickly and quietly as you can. Angering a rattlesnake can result in the snake defending itself from an attack. A rattlesnake may release more venom if angered versus simply striking out of surprise.
  6. Be responsible for your children. Children are naturally curious. Make sure they know the dangers of rattlesnakes.