Did you know that roughly 1,300 American kids get bitten by snakes each year? Of these snakebites, fully 25 percent occur in two states, Texas and Florida. But snakebites are reported in all 50 U.S. states. That means a mountain biker like you could get attacked by some dangerous noodle pretty much anywhere. That’s why you want to learn how to avoid rattlesnakes while mountain biking.
Also read: How to Get Better at Mountain Biking.
I’ll share 9 ideas I’ve learned from around the web on what to do if you came across a rattlesnake on your local MTB trails.
Do you know why you can trust the information on this website? Because the suggestions below mostly came from real mountain bikers across several MTB forums. The tips came from MTBers that have had close shaves with dangerous rattlers and venomous vipers.
But before I do that, here’s a list of some of the riskiest rattlesnake states in the U.S.
States Where Most Snakebites Happen
When it comes to snakebites, not all states were created equal. Some have more venomous rattlers than others. And others have more snakebites each year than others.
If you live in any of these rattlesnake states, take steps to learn how to stay safe while out enjoying rides on your mountain bike.
Florida and Texas are the leading geos in the country when it comes to snakebites. You’re more likely to be bitten by a snake in these two states than anywhere else in the United States. In fact, 1 in 4 snakebites happen in these two regions, Texas and California.
Other states with terrifyingly high snakebite rates include Louisiana, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
Two States with the Most Venomous Snakebites
Florida and Texas and all the other states I mentioned above have more snakebites than the rest of North America.
But when talking rattlesnakes, then California and Arizona are the leading states. Most snakebite injuries from rattlesnakes happen in these two states. Speaking of rattlesnakes, copperheads account for the majority of snakebites in the country.
But there’s good news, too. While rattlesnakes are some of the most venomous snakes on the planet and most likely to cause death, copperheads’ venom is pretty mild. And bites from a copperhead rattlesnake rarely lead to death of the victim if they seek medical attention soon enough.
9 Ways to Avoid Snakebites While Mountain Biking
I spent some time researching online and asking questions in various MTB forums. And I learned a few things about how you can mountain bike out in rattlesnake woods and still stay safe. At least most of the time. Here’s how:
1.Don’t Be Unfriendly When the Rattlesnake Isn’t
I don’t like snakes one bit. And I’ve never ever seen a pretty one. However, I’m all for not offending snakes unnecessarily.
Anyone that’s dealt with snakes can tell you they’re not interested in humans that much. All they’d love for you to do is mind your own business.
So, mind your own business and leave them to mind theirs. Pretty much all snakes want to get away from the scene when you show up in their natural habitat.
Snakes are probably more afraid of you than you are of them. And they try to avoid trouble. That’s why they start slithering away from all perceived or real dangers.
The last thing you want to do is pick stones and sticks and try to kill the snake. I hear this snake species does hold its ground, refusing to budge. And rattlesnakes are some of the quickest snakes ever created.
Do you know what’ll happen if you don’t manage to kill the snake quickly enough? You’ll get attacked; maybe you’ll get bitten. And someone once told me they don’t know of anything that causes as much pain as a snakebite.
So, stop messing with snakes. Or you’ll get bitten and the worst happens.
2. Let the Rattlesnake Be
I remember once exploring the local trails with my nephew while visiting with my sister. Halfway through the trip, we came across a sizable snake. I think it was the harmless kind.
We just stopped and let the creature get away. The thing didn’t even look at us once, because we didn’t try to mess with it. And I believe things would have ended the same had the snake been something poisonous.
What If You Spot the Snake Too Late?
A guy I know encountered a rattlesnake while out seeing the local trails in his state, Arizona. He was riding too fast and almost ran over it.
What happened? The snake felt threatened and decided to strike.
Fortunately, it didn’t manage to reach his leg. Instead, it somehow got its head through the spokes and got torn to death.
It turns out replacing damaged spokes and keeping them taut enough can save your life, literally.
3.Get the Rattlesnake Off the Mountain Bike Trail
Instead of attacking an animal that’s simply living and minding its business, be creative. Get it out of the way.
But how do you get a rattler off a trail without putting yourself in danger?
Well, I’ve never had to do what I’m about to suggest. But some mountain bikers I met in some MTB forum said to use a long stick to remove the snake out of the trail. But only do that if the animal isn’t facing you. Otherwise, it could think you’re trying to be nasty and coil and strike at you.
If the snake is facing in your direction, just wait for it to slither off the trail.
4. Ride Around the Snake if You’ve Got Enough Room
What would you do if you were riding uphill and suddenly saw a snake? If you’re not too near, dismount and try walking your bike around it, staying behind its tail.
Normally, snakes attack you if you’re approaching them from the front. That means you should be safe if you get away from them around the tail.
Make sure to walk the bike on the snake side. That way, the danger noodle will strike at the bike before reaching you.
5.Don’t Bunny Hop On Rattlesnakes
Snakes, baby bunnies, boars, and whatnot have a right to be out there in the jungle. Just like you, if not more.
So, don’t be sadistic and go bunny hopping on snakes. That’s plain cruel and inconsiderate. It is tosspot behavior. Plus, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way.
One guy in a forum I was hanging out at said the only thing that happens to snakes when he bunny hops on them is death. He stomps on them too hard that none ever survive.
I think I could do that to any snake if that’s the only way to avoid being bitten. That’s one of those unavoidable situations in life, I guess. You see a snake too late and bunny hop on it hard and fast before it harms you.
That said, remember that snakes are part of the ecosystem no matter how much you hate or fear them. So, try not to kill them. Don’t upset nature’s biodiversity balance. Because that’s just not right.
6.Ride With a Trail Dog, Preferably a Jack Russell Terrier
I fear snakes. Heck I hate them. But I love the outdoors more than I detest these slithering rattlers. And I vowed long ago they aren’t going to ever stop me.
That’s why I ride with my trail dog pretty much every time I ride solo. By the way, it’s a terrier. I learned that terriers are quick at spotting snakes, seizing them, and killing them.
But it’s not like there’s nope ropes lurking around the local mountain bike trails I ride. I’ve never had to deal with a danger noodle. And I’m yet to spot even one harmless thing where I’m at.
But I keep dreaming of snakes. And I’m not sure I can strangle the least harmless of them! So, I ride with my terrier.
Jack Russell Terriers Have a Good Reputation as Snake Killers
A blog I read while researching for this post singled out Jack Russell terriers as being pretty good snake dispatchers.
These dogs are supposedly intelligent enough to wait and grab the snake at the best possible time. That’s how they avoid getting bitten, at least most of the time.
These are anecdotal stories, remember. No research identifies any type of dog as being the ultimate snake killer. There’s no breed of dog that catches and kills venous snakes all the time. And there’s always the risk your furry friend could get a couple lethal snake bike injuries and not survive the trip to the vet.
How do you get a good snake-killing dog, anyways? Ask around. Locals usually know which dogs are great at it dispatching rattlesnakes.
Once you get a good snake dog, have a consult with your vet about getting it vaccinated against bites from venomous snakes. I read that vaccines help in some way.
7. Use the Stomping Method
Snakes don’t perceive sound the way humans do , with external ears, according to the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Research published in this scientific journal discovered that snakes are pretty sensitive to sound-induced vibrations rather than sound pressure.
So, throwing small pebbles toward a snake (and not hitting it) would be a good idea.
You may also lift your front wheel off the ground and bring it down to stomp the ground near the snake. But don’t get too near.
Once the snake senses those vibrations, it’ll most likely try to get away.
8. Ride With a California Kingsnake
There’s this guy I came across in one of the forums that gave an interesting suggestion. The guy has his pet, a California Kingsnake, accompany him on all his rides. And if he bumps into a rattlesnake, the cyclist releases his pet snake to eat it.
Kingsnakes are more than just tamable reptiles. Kingsnakes can eat both nonvenomous snakes and venous snakes such as rattlesnakes.
But it gets even more interesting. California Kingsnakes, a subspecies of the common Kingsnake, also eat other Kingsnakes!
Well, I don’t know if that contributor’s suggestion is one you’d like to implement. But if you can, why not?
Me? Hell no! I just can’t keep a snake as a pet no matter how gorgeous everyone says it is. Plus, I’d probably toss my cookies if I watched a snake eating another snake. Yuck!
9. Move to Rattlesnake-free Locations
If rattlesnakes are still a big bother for you after trying all these strategies, move to Alaska. Seriously.
If you live in a rattlesnake and viper-infested state such as Texas or Florida and you’ve always wanted to relocate, why not?
You could always move to Alaska and forget about snakes slithering along or across otherwise safe and tranquil mountain bike trails….forever.
All you’d have to do is have a quick yard sale and sell your existing bike and other possessions. Then, head out to the Frozen North.
Once there, buy a good fat bike and start hitting those snowy trails. Or even abandon biking for snow machining or whatever.
And, don’t worry too much if someone calls you a Cheechako for holding up highway traffic. They’re simply saying you have a tenderfoot, meaning you haven’t mastered driving in the snow, yet.
But I bet you love your state too much and aren’t planning on relocating to Alaska anytime soon. In that case, you’ve got to learn how to stay out of the way of venomous vipers and rattling snakes.
What to Do About Rattlesnakes on MTB Trails: Final Thoughts
Rattlesnakes are pretty common wild animals in states such as California and Arizona. While their bites aren’t usually fatal, you’d want to seek medical attention quickly if you ever get bitten.
There’s at least 9 ways of dealing with rattlesnakes while out there mountain biking. First off, get out of the way. And don’t offend rattlesnakes. Ride around them. Or stomp around them.
Some riders also bunny hop on rattlesnakes, killing them. And that’s OK if it’s the only way to survive a nasty bite. That said, it’s wrong to kill snakes if you can avoid it.
Another trick is to get the snake out of the way using a super long stick.
You could also use a pet (a Kingsnake) to swallow up your problem ha. And if everything else fails and you detest snakes like I do, buy some fattie and move over to Alaska.