Gila Monsters And Rattlesnakes - Seven Venomous Reptiles In Nevada And The Southwest U.S.
Watch out for these, but no need for over-concern
In Nevada, as well as across the Desert Southwest U.S., reside seven venomous reptiles. Six of these are rattlesnakes, and the other one is called a "Gila Monster." Most of these are nocturnal, meaning they would come out at night, but the Gila Monster tends to be "diurnal", active during the day. You would rarely ever see a Gila Monster, since they tend to live underground, unless it rains heavily and they are forced above ground.
The venom of a Gila Monster is moderately toxic and could be potentially lethal to humans, but there have not been any human fatalities recorded. Gila Monsters are stocky lizards and can grow to be quite large. They have a solid black snout, a short, stubby tail and have a pattern of red, pink, or orange and black bands. Usually they will run away if approached, but if they feel threatened they can rise up and emit a loud "hissing" sound. This alone would be enough to make me stay far, far away!
In addition to this charming creature, there are six different varieties of rattlesnakes here in the desert Southwest. In Northern and Central Nevada, you can find the "Great Basin Rattlesnake" and the Panamint Rattlesnake.
The Great Basin Rattlesnake is generally brownish or greenish, and is found near sagebrush. The Panamint Rattlesnake has more of a tan or light brown color, with bands across it's back and is more in the Central part of the State, but can also be found in the Southern areas in parts of Clark County. Neither of these species are considered to be "deadly" but can deliver a pretty dangerous and painful bite.
In the Las Vegas Valley and the Mojave desert, there are three kinds of rattlesnakes - The Mojave Desert Sidewinder, the Mojave Rattlesnake, and a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake.
The Mojave Desert Sidewinder is fairly common, and tends to live in sandy, pebbly areas. This snake is also sometimes referred to as the "Horned Rattlesnake" because of small growths above it's eyes that resemble "horns." This tends to be a small snake with a small rattle, and therefore can be hard to hear. This is a moderately venomous snake.
The Mojave Rattlesnake on the other hand delivers a highly neurotoxic venom, making it one of the most venomous of all rattlesnakes. Here in the Las Vegas valley, it is referred to as the "Mojave Green" since it's background color can take on a greenish hue. They have prominent light and dark stripes on the sides of their heads, a distinctly diamond pattern on it's back, and a ringed tail. The white rings are usually wider than the black ones, a good way to differentiate it from other varieties. They tend to live in creosote bush flats in several counties in Nevada.The best advice is to stay away from ANY kind of snakes, especially if you are not sure of what you are up against.
The Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake tends to live in rocky hillside areas upslope from the creosote flats.This snake is closely related to the Panamint. The Southwestern speckled's can vary quite a bit in background color, since they tend to mimic their surroundings. Their markings are muted dark blotches that become "rings" toward their tail.
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is found in extreme Southern Nevada. It has a heavy body and can grow to be quite large. It is recognizable because of it's "Diamond" pattern and the prominent black and white "coon" tail just about it's rattle. Their venom is only moderately toxic, but since they can be big snakes (4 feet long is not uncommon) they can deliver a huge does of it!
So, why are people so afraid of snakes? One good reason is that they appear to always have their eyes open, when in fact, they CAN be asleep with their eyes open. The reason for this is that they do not have eyelids! A flicking tongue is another scary aspect, but in reality, they are "tasting the air," and trying to see if they can pick up a scent of "prey" nearby. These snakes have jaws that can unhinge to 180 degrees, so they can swallow their prey whole.
You usually won't even see a rattlesnake when the temperatures are hot, 90 degrees or above. They have no way to regulate their body temperature and can quickly overheat and die, so they will usually be in shady places. They can be active in the evening when it cools down, and they are more active in the Spring and Fall (short sleeve weather for people).
If someone that you are with is bitten, there are five important steps to take.
1. First of all, TRY to calm the person down, the slower their heart rate, the slower the venom will move through their body.
2. Next try to "immobilize" the victim, try to keep the bite BELOW heart level.
3. Then the third thing you try to do if at all possible, is identify the snake, this greatly helps medical professionals decide how to treat the victim, even a good description of the snake (if you're not sure of the exact KIND of rattlesnake it was) will help.
4. Next, monitor the victim, watch for unusual symptoms or signs, try to keep them calm and talking to you...talk to them in a reassuring voice.
5. And finally (and most importantly!) get them to a medical center as quickly as possible. Don't assume that the snake may not have released any venom when he bit, it's a lot better to be safe than sorry!
Now, there IS one snake here in Nevada and in the desert Southwest that is not dangerous at all! It is called a "gopher snake" and from the picture here, I personally would have NO idea if confronted by one of these whether it IS or is NOT a rattlesnake. So for safety's sake, I would recommend to try to stay away from all snakes!
Now sometimes I can tend to be "gullible" and fall for things that I shouldn't "fall" for, such was the case when I came to visit my husband one time here in Las Vegas. He had been living here for about six months, and after our fun visit of a few days, he had dropped me off at the airport. In one of the airport gift shops, they had a gold colored envelope for sale, and on it was written "rattlesnake eggs... keep in a cool place, or they can begin to hatch".
Ok, so I was fascinated, but walked by without checking out WHAT was in the envelope. Then I started to think, there is no way they'd be selling REAL rattlesnake EGGS, would they? I mean, you wouldn't want rattlesnakes hatching in other states and infesting those states, not to mention they probably wouldn't survive in other climates. But, being the curious creature that I am, I HAD to go back and check it out! Well, wouldn't you know there were NOT rattlesnake eggs in that envelope, just a plastic contraption that "snapped" when you opened the envelope. Someone has got a very prankster sense of humor to be selling things like that! And I just had to fall for it! And I bet there are a lot of others who fall for the same thing.
So, you've been warned, stay away not only from Gila Monster's and Rattlesnakes in the desert, but stay away from Rattlesnake Eggs at the Las Vegas airport as well!
More by this Author
A fascinating look at the amazing hummingbird, one of nature's most beautiful creatures. The four most common hummingbirds found in Las Vegas and in the Mojave Desert.
Deciding to get a pit bull is a huge decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Things like natural, common personality traits and dangers should be considered, as well as ownership expenses.
I remember a scene in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes when a young lady named Ruth passed away from cancer. A very superstitious character in the movie, a woman named Sipsie, proceeded to cover the mirror in the room,...