Protection from rattlesnake bites

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RobertH
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Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by RobertH » October 4th, 2010, 1:04 pm

I am starting a new thread on this topic, so as not to hijack the thread on Kent's bite.

Being fairly new to herping, I was frankly a bit surprised to read in the other thread that many of us have - up to this point - been relatively unconcerned about the possibility of getting tagged by a helleri (or other crote). We know it exists, but we don't do all that much about it other than trying to stay vigilant. That impression was reinforced when I went to Tejon Ranch with Nicholas. Yes, most everyone wore some sort of hiking boot and pants, but that was about the extent of it. That is not to say that Nicholas and I came any more prepared. We didn't. In fact, both of us wore shorts that day.

So, what I would like to suggest is that we all take Kent's ordeal as an opportunity to try to come up with some specific guidelines about protection from rattlesnake bites. Yes, vigilance is highly important, but as Kent's case shows, vigilance is sometimes not enough.

The basic question is: What is the proper amount of protection?

The answer, once you think about it, is not that simple. It depends, for example, on where you are herping (on or off trail, type of habitat, season, time of day, etc.), how you are herping (flipping, looking into cracks, getting on your hands and knees, etc.), and, to a lesser extent also what you are looking for. In other words, what's proper protection in one scenario may be too much or little protection in another. You may say "one can never have too much protection," but unfortunately protection from snake bites is not all that comfortable -- not comfortable enough for the average herper to wear it 100% of the time out.

Which brings me to a second, related question: What form of protection exactly should we wear?

Brian (Fundad) mentioned that he wears snake bite-proof boots at all times, which obviously offers some of the best protection. But, as he also said, they look a bit dorky and are, I presume, not very comfortable, especially on hot days. The reason they look dorky is that, much of the time, they are a bit overkill, i.e., they would look perfectly apppropriate when hiking at night through the the Venezualan rainforest with lance heads lurking every step of the way :lol: . And because of the "dorkiness factor", I suspect, most of us don't wear them. Even if we did, snake boots are not available for younger children (like Nicholas), who we should be most concerned about for obvious reasons.

Gloves raise similar issues. They are not comfortable on warm/hot days, interfere with dexterity (photography), and, even if worn, don't protect against crote bites unless you wear a pair of those specialized crote jhandling gloves that I saw Jim (actually Noah, his assistant) use at Grassy Hollow. And I don't think that's really a viable option out in the field.

So, what does a reasonable herper in California wear and under what circumstance?

Let's hear your ideas! Maybe, at the end, we can draw up a little document with our conclusions and post it for future reference by others, especially newbies like myself.

And I apologize for taking the initiative here, although there are others who are of course much more qualified and experienced to weigh in on this issue. I'll be happy to get out of the way from here and let the experts do their thing ;) .

Robert

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Crotalus » October 4th, 2010, 1:44 pm

I look exclusively for rattlesnakes. Most of the time I wear tennis shoes, shorts, and leather gloves, but if the vegetation gets thick I throw on a pair of pants.

Like I posted in the other thread. There's a study that shows that denim work pretty well for reducing the severity of bites. Though if I were walking through waste high grass looking for kingsnakes under boards, then I'd probably take the Fundad approach.

Re: gloves: thick leather welding gloves aren't snake proof, but neither is the hexarmor "glove of power" that Lemm and Donald were promoting a few years ago. When new, they do work to keep small rattlesnake fangs out and serve as an affordable extra level of defense. I think it's likely that a thick welding glove would have helped in Kent's case.

-JJ

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ricrabt
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by ricrabt » October 4th, 2010, 1:56 pm

In grass I wear snake boots at all times. Not so much in the desert. As for flipping, I don't use my hands on A/C, I use a rake. For rocks I use heavy golves, but I may just wear GOP from now on. As far as being to hot for that kind of stuff, I don't flip in hot weather...John

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Fundad
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Fundad » October 4th, 2010, 2:00 pm

I look exclusively for rattlesnakes. Most of the time I wear tennis shoes, shorts, and leather gloves, but if the vegetation gets thick I throw on a pair of pants.
:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

Fundad

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Erik_NorCal
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Erik_NorCal » October 4th, 2010, 3:07 pm

Flip-flops, shorts, and a 12 pack. The only way to herp. :roll:

It depends on where I’m going. Jeans, snake boots, hook, is my usual getup. I always carry kevlar gloves in my backpack. But don't use them very often.

There are some snake boots that don't look so bad. But most only come in camo. I put my jeans over them, and they look like regular hiking boots. They take a bit to break in, but after that they are almost as comfortable as my hiking boots.

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by hellihooks » October 4th, 2010, 4:47 pm

I don't have alot to add, as I mostly rely upon my situational awareness, and experiance. What I CAN tell you is the MOST dangerous hot is the one already in the bag/cage. MOST bites result from constant/lengthy close proximity to hots combined with ONE moment of innattention/complacency. 'Authentic' bites, such as Kents, are actually pretty rare. It's more dangerous to get in your car and drive to the store. Each person has their own 'comfort level'... do what you feel necessary, to feel safe. If you find yourself in a situation/circumstance where you are no longer comfortable...get the heck out of there... :roll: :thumb: jim

That said...I have been known to literally 'herp naked'... so consider the source... :roll: Believe me... you herp VERY CAREFULLY when in the buff... :shock: :lol: :lol:

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monklet
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by monklet » October 4th, 2010, 6:11 pm

hellihooks wrote:That said...I have been known to literally 'herp naked'
man, thanks for the warning. That's some scary sh*t. :roll:

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n_natrix
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by n_natrix » October 4th, 2010, 8:14 pm

I have been looking around online at different snake boots and they seem to vary quite a bit. To the people wearing snake boots, I would like to ask which ones you like both in regards of protection and comfort.
/Jakob

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by MarcLinsalata » October 4th, 2010, 8:30 pm

I don't own snakeboots (yet) but I will say that if I worried about dorkiness then I would never have been interested in herps in the first place..... :thumb:

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by dezertwerx » October 4th, 2010, 9:37 pm

MarcLinsalata wrote:Iif I worried about dorkiness then I would never have been interested in herps in the first place..... :thumb:
Damn right :lol: :lol:

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Erik_NorCal
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Erik_NorCal » October 4th, 2010, 10:39 pm

MarcLinsalata wrote:I don't own snakeboots (yet) but I will say that if I worried about dorkiness then I would never have been interested in herps in the first place..... :thumb:
Word.

I'll post some "cool" boots tomorrow. Posting from my phone right now. Slow, and a pain to post pics. Plus, its bed time.

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by hellihooks » October 5th, 2010, 6:12 am

monklet wrote:
hellihooks wrote:That said...I have been known to literally 'herp naked'
man, thanks for the warning. That's some scary sh*t. :roll:
NOT with other herping buddys...It's an old hippy guy thing, done with Hippy chicks... :lol: :lol: :lol:

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brick911
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by brick911 » October 5th, 2010, 6:19 am

MarcLinsalata wrote:I don't own snakeboots (yet) but I will say that if I worried about dorkiness then I would never have been interested in herps in the first place..... :thumb:
Really good point. I feel the same about waders, but this puts it in perspective.

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Correcamino
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Correcamino » October 5th, 2010, 7:58 am

Like JJ, I have always just worn shots, or long pants (thinking more of thorns than snakes) and light hiking boots. I am now thinking of getting snake proof gators, mainly so they keep on going when I wear out the boots and I won't have to keep springing for new ones. Last year photgraphing stephensi during breeding season we had some amped up males suddenly come flying out of the bushes striking at our legs which gave us a wakeup call. Also one trip while board flipping for helleri, Ceno spotted a helleri writhing in the grass. Wondering why it was acting so funny, he followed it's body till he realized he was standing on it's head. I probably won't wear the gators all the time, but incertain situations like the tall Cali grass...

Rich

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jdustin
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by jdustin » October 5th, 2010, 9:23 am

I mostly rely upon my situational awareness, and experiance.
I respect you greatly Jim so don't take this wrong, but I think often that idea is what gets people bitten.
Almost every herper I've ever known grossly overestimates their own experience, and their ability to be aware of everything.

As in most things, good security comes from only taking on an acceptable level of risk.
When determining what level of risk to accept, you should consider the probability of something bad happening AND the impact that it would cause if it did.
There are typically things you can do to decrease potential risk (wear gloves, boots... seat belts, condom, anti-virus software, etc). These "mitigating measures" should be weighed to see if the benefit they provide is worth the inconvenience of their use.

At the end of the day some risk will be accepted, so there will still be freak accidents. But those accidents happen because of a risk you've weighed and knowingly chose to accept.
Now I need to step down, this soapbox is hurting my feet. ;)
Josh

ps- Jim, put on some pants!

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by hellihooks » October 5th, 2010, 1:47 pm

Josh,
solid reasoning and well put. EVERYTHING in life is a cost-benefit analysis towards risk assessment. I (at my age) have a very low tolerance for risk... no bungee-jumping, no sky diving... hell, I even (usually) drive like an old lady. Keeping crotes and running a crote rescue is by far the most dangerous thing I do in my life (cept for maybe getting naked with hippy chicks in the boonies...lol) but I have been doing these things for years, and am pretty good at them... :roll: I rarely herp down the hill, in tall grass, but when I do, I'm in boots amd long heavy pants. Up here in the HD, it's much more open, and I have literally decades of experiance In-da-crops... VERY VERY rarely does a crote see me before I see him... and my feet and hands are NEVER put in places where i don't have a clear/full view. Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying it can't happen to me, but it's like driving a car... I'm such a defensive driver that I've never had an accident in 35 yrs. I don't want to start a big crap-storm, or nothing... but driving a car is inheirantly WAY more dangerous than field-herping. Count up the combined hrs the thousands of herpers out there have accrued this last year, and compare it to how many 'authentic' bites there have been. Now... how many of those same people have been in car accidents? Hell... a teenager here in hesperia was shot in the head and killed two days ago...walking down a street... :roll: It's like J. Lemm said... this was a 'freak' accident and IMO as likely as getting hit by lighting. In the US, about a hundered people a year are killed by lightning... snakebite... about 5 a year.
Be CAREFUL, be SAFE, but also, be sensible... :roll: :D jim

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jdustin
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by jdustin » October 5th, 2010, 3:27 pm

True stuff Jim. I agree, and I wasn't trying to say you take unnecessary risk (except maybe herping without pants, lol).
I know you know what you are doing, and Kent, he knows exactly what he is doing, and this was completely a freak accident.
The only reason I said anything was because of the younger up-and-coming herpers that think they've watched enough Steve Irwin/Jeff Corwin footage that their "experience" will keep them safe. Ya know, the guys that post pics of themselves bare handing crots as proof that they're experts.

One more thought about the stats stuff. We have to remember that although one's chances of being killed by lightning are really low, if your hobby causes you to stand in thuderstorms you do not still have that same low probability that everyone else enjoys.
When one spend copious amounts of time around crots, your chances of a bite are no longer the same as the average kindergarten teacher in Wisconsin. :)

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by hellihooks » October 5th, 2010, 5:04 pm

Good points again, Josh... specially bout kids. Kids...put on two pairs of pants... :thumb:
As herpers, actively seeking herps and knowing about herps... we are less likely to suffer an authentic bite than say, a hiker, a family on a picknic, construction workers, ect. That said, there is that old saying... If you spend enough time at the barber shop... sooner or later you Will get a haircut. That is a risk, however small, we accept to herp. Most of us have had close calls, and (hopefully) learned from them. Others leave the hobby, as TOO dangerous. Some of us remember a guy a year or so ago, who was fascinated by crotes, but terrified as well. He fashioned leg and shoe gauntlets from 5 gall bucket plastic, braided together with twine... and a set of like 8' midwest cobra tongs... :shock: :roll: No trying to make fun of the guy... he was an ok guy... BUT... not around anymore.... :|
Point is... nobody makes us herp... if the possibility of getting tagged exceeds you risk threshold, perhaps you should find another hobby... because that risk will ALWAYS be there.
It's natural for everyone to go off the deep end, concerning saftey, after someone gets tagged, and by all means take this lesson (that authentic bites can and do happen) to heart, and make whatever changes you feel neccessary to be more safe. But remember... your best tool is your mind. jim

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Tim Borski » October 5th, 2010, 5:21 pm

Gaiters. Take'em off when you get back to the truck...or KFC.
I wear'em all the time...2 seconds on, 2 seconds off. In my opinion, one of life's great no-brainers.
Tim

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by devilfish79 » October 5th, 2010, 5:23 pm

I don't really know what to add here (due to lack of field experience) other than a link I found while searching for snake boots: http://www.snakeboots.com/. Maybe it's me, but there are a few models which aren't that dorky if what you're risking is a very painful and life-threatening bite. Maybe that's just me.

PS: That site also has boots for children.

-Erik

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by RockRatt Rich Morgan » October 5th, 2010, 6:51 pm

I wear sname gaiters with steel toe boots. I ALWAYS have them in my snake backpack and have on occasion forgot to put them on. But I try to have them on whenever I am hiking around, specially when I am in buses, etx. I also wear thick gloves mostly from protection of the rocks but also hopefully to help protect a glancing fang if need be. Like others have said they are easy on and off and afford a little piece of mind. They are pretty inexpensive and once my boots wear out I still have my gaiters. Be safe out there. Rich

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Carl Brune » October 5th, 2010, 7:17 pm

Interesting discussion. My experience is that most people (including me?) have difficulties being rational/quantitative about risk management. I see some parallels between automobile safety and hot snake safety. There are some things that are clearly foolish: street racing, drunk driving, pinning/handling hots. Yet some folks (especially young males) seem to be fall into these traps. On the other side you have people who rely "situational awareness and experience". I would call this being careful. Hopefully, I fall into this category. But, no matter how careful, you cannot remove all of the risk from either activity (driving or herping). I also don't believe it is possible to always live up to an ideal safety standard. I think about all of the times in the past when I was driving in a hurry to get to my son's day care on time... I don't have any answers here. Just be try to be safe, do what you have to do, do what you enjoy when you can, and hopefully live to a ripe old age.

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jdustin
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by jdustin » October 5th, 2010, 7:34 pm

Point is... nobody makes us herp... if the possibility of getting tagged exceeds you risk threshold, perhaps you should find another hobby... because that risk will ALWAYS be there.
It's natural for everyone to go off the deep end, concerning saftey, after someone gets tagged,
We all have the option of removing the risk by not herping, but the point I've been trying to make is that it is not an all or nothing. There are ways to do it more safely. Weighing risks and taking steps to protect oneself is not going off the deep end concerning safety. And that goes for all bites, legitimate or otherwise.

I mean Jim, you're a living example of this... VERY experienced, very vigilant, still gets bitten. Could your bites have been avoided without giving up herping? If you always wore thick gloves would you have a different nickname ? :)

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by RobertH » October 5th, 2010, 7:59 pm

A little while ago I found this 1988 article on rattlesnake bites in Southern CA:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/article ... 7-0039.pdf

Though the research is now more than 20 years old, I see no reason why the basic conclusions shouldn't still be valid. Aside from confirming that most rattlesnakes are sustained by young men handling crotes while drunk, the articles contains the following interesting findings:

- 87% of all bites are to the hand and fingers
- 85% of all bites are from helleris

While many or most bites to the hand are suffered by the aforementioned young "heroes" :roll: :) , a good number is suffered by "normal" people who simply put their hands in the wrong place. They are "freak accidents." Just like Kent's.

In other words, Kent's case, even though in many ways a "freak accident," statistically isn't all that freaky. If and when bitten by a rattlesnake in Southern CA, you will most likely be bitten in the hand/finger by a helleri - just like Kent.

Just to be sure: This is not to make any statement about what Kent did or did not do. It's simply to point out that, in terms of protection, we should probably keep in mind that gators or snake boots are only part of the solution, statistically only a very small part. Where we put our hands seems to be the most important thing.

Looking back, I now realize, for example, that when I allowed Nicholas back in April to pull that striped racer out of a cave under a boulder, there could well have been a helleri hiding in there or in a connected tunnel. At the time, I had no idea (yet) of what to look for, but I can see now that this was not smart and I certainly wouldn't let him to do it again today. Nor would he want to. He's also been reading this thread and the one about Kent and has realized that the risk is not just theoretical.

Having said that, I too bought (already before Kent's accident) gators for Nicholas and myself, though we have yet to inaugurate them. They are called Texas Armor:

http://www.tiemannsoftexas.com/prod01.htm

Texas Armor is unique in that they are not attached to the pants, but simply ride on top of the boots. They can also be worn with shorts, which I see as a plus. And, last but not least, they are available in kids' sizes. When going off-trail into areas with lots of rocks or other good hides for crotes, I think we will wear them from now on (though I am, of course, not sure how effective they really are, but they should certainly help a lot if bitten).

Thanks for all of your great advice and ideas!

Robert

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by nightdriver » October 5th, 2010, 8:35 pm

I seem to recall reading once that most "leg" bites occurred on the lower 9 inches or so(don't quote me I could be misremembering :lol:) A good pair of 9 to 12" leather boots and some jeans should handle most situations. I've seen snakes hit nothing but denim, so loose fitting jeans might work better than some of those acid wash ones you wear out to bars(oops, dating myself)

I remember feeling something tapping my foot once, while looking up at a bird(off the trail) in an Arizona canyon. Looking down, I discovered a small C. lepidus striking my leather boot repeatedly. I saw several other ON the trail that day. I have unfortunately become very accustomed to wearing teva's while out birding these days, but I always try to wear boots if I think crotes might be in the area.

I think the awareness thing works well for herpers out walking around. most of the time we're looking down. Birders are probably way more at risk since they are usually looking up. If you're going to be flipping or crawling around in rocky areas, it' s probably wiser to gear up.

Anybody own the gloves worn by falconers?

As a kid I usually wore leather boots. They were always better protection from the foxtail seeds.....and snakes.

A rake was mentioned earlier for flipping. I've also seen crowbars, rock hammers, and other garden or home made implements used by herpers. if it's small/flat I'll use my hook or tongs, but I've bent enough hooks to learn I really should stop doing that. I admit I'm bad about not wearing gloves when flipping rocks and big stuff. Shame on me. Thinking back, I've gotten lucky a few times.

Being an overprotective father now. I don't think I'll let my kids flip until they're 12 or 13. That's assuming I can bribe them into actually getting out of the house :(

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Tim Borski
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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Tim Borski » October 6th, 2010, 2:37 am

RobertH, I too have kids that join me in the field. Gaiters (Texas armor) are required because we spend a lot of time in (potentially) hot areas down here in S FL.
Above that, I constantly stress "watch your approach." I tell them that ad nauseum and I'm sure they are tired of Dad saying it but looking "around" an object BEFORE flipping it, combined with the leggings put's my mind (a little) at ease. They are both at an age where "if Dad wears them, we will too", so by default I put them on also and lead by example. My 10 year old joins me most often and I keep his attached to a pair of rubber (Pygmy proof?) boots in the bed of the truck. He slips them on EVERYTIME before stepping off the road.
Here's an interesting example of a close call: A few nights ago, we were cruising after dark. It was late and I'd taken my gaiters off when my son said "snake! I think it's a Mud!" I stop, we get out and it had moved off the road. I'm on the road's edge, shining in the grass and looking for a "black" snake. I was only wearing sneakers and I'm ONE SECOND from taking a step off the pavement to look closer, but before doing so, I look down at the spot I'm going to place my foot (a good habit) and THERE is a yearling Moc. If I had stepped without the glance down, I would've stepped directly on the back third of the snake...I'm sure with predictable results. I thought about that one all the way home. It can happen to anyone, any time.
The best we can all hope for is be careful and put risk at a minimum.

Here's gaiters rocking a pair of shorts...if Nicholas has got'em, use them.
Image

Tim

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Erik_NorCal » October 6th, 2010, 10:45 am

devilfish79 wrote:http://www.snakeboots.com/.That site also has boots for children.
They also support rattlersnake round ups. :roll:

Don't forget to check out the pics page...
http://www.snakeboots.com/snakepic.htm
Those are some huge rattlesnakes! You better buy some boots from us!


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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Fieldnotes » October 6th, 2010, 11:14 am

Take with you common sense, a keen eye, and always know where you are placing your hands and feet. I always tell people if you cannot do all these things at a steady speed then slow down until you can.

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Re: Protection from rattlesnake bites

Post by Fundad » October 6th, 2010, 12:58 pm

This is good time for all reminders.. I often preach to some people when the herp with me, if they don't have full protection..(Jeans, Boots, gloves, object turning tool, tail grab, or arent't using common sense of watching where they place their body parts) Thats me and my nature. After 30+ years I know as well as anyone, anything can happen when herping, I don't care how skilled one thinks they are, myself included. Unfortunately I figure it's only a matter of time before it happens to me too. As I have had many close calls, some of which is carelessness on my part. But IMO its extremely important to be as safe as you can.

My eyes bug out when a tough guy comes along to board flip in coastal CA With hiking shoes, and shorts.. :shock: :shock: If I say anything I get an eye roll. :shock:
OK Good Luck.. (thinking to myself "your going to need it")

A couple of things
1. I have said this before, but what I dislike about Helleri the most is their willingness to bite without rattling. (This event is an example of what can happen with that).
I have been tagged in the boot and jeans by NON rattling Helleri. I personally have not experienced another species like this, though I am sure there are some out there..

2. Palomar has a lot of Helleri dens, I have found myself in the middle of them before. I swear they appear out of no where when your in the middle of the den site.
On a couple of occasions, I have found myself in the middle of a den site surrounded by Helleri, I swear that they were not there before I got to where I was. Almost like being trapped by a gang of Helleri that are doing it on purpose. :shock: :shock: Laguna Mtn, San Gabes, San Berdos, and San Jacintos also have there share of densities too, but many of those are NOT right in line with the good Z habitat.

JJ mentioned the study on Jeans, I know for a fact they can help. I have had Helleri deflect off my Jeans. (BTW when that happens your heart skips a beat, and Olympic long jumpers would be impressed with the jumping skills :lol: :lol: )

Someone mentioned not taking their kids until they were 12 or 13, I agree with that for some of the areas in certain weather patterns 100%. I was extremely careful about where I took my son when he was younger than that.

Just kind of rambling here, but my point is we need to be safe out there and never assume anything no matter how tough and experienced we think we are!

Fundad

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