Authorities say the best thing to do, if you encounter a rattlesnake, is to stand still, not panic and never try to pick the snake up yourself
Ah, summer! … splashing around in the pool, playing with pool noodles and — OMG THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE NOODLE.
One fire department in Arizona is warning people to be careful with their water toys after a resident heading to his swimming pool said a rattlesnake popped out of a pool noodle he had grabbed from against the wall.
Adding to the spook factor: several baby rattlers were later found still inside the noodle.
“Watch where you store your pool noodles when they are not in use,” the Buckeye Fire Department wrote in a Facebook post, saying a man left two pool noodles against a cinderblock wall and when he started bringing them to his backyard pool the next day, a snake slithered out and younger ones were still inside the foam cylinder.
“The rattlesnake kind of fell to the ground, looked around and slithered away under a bush,” Buckeye Fire Chief Tommy Taylor tells PEOPLE, saying he’s found reports of other types of snakes laying eggs in or around pool noodles stashed near bushes or fences.
“During the summer, rattlesnakes will hide from the heat under any cover they can find, including but certainly not limited to pool toys,” Emily Taylor (no relation), a biological sciences professor at California Polytechnic State University who has studied rattlesnakes for 20 years, tells PEOPLE.
The venomous reptiles are routinely found hiding under shrubs, piles of debris, wood piles, and “anything else that people leave laying upon the ground,” she says.
Rattlesnakes, which don’t lay eggs, can give birth to as many as 24 or more babies at once, Emily Taylor says.
About 8,000 people a year in the U.S. suffer bites from rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes, with about five people dying from the bites, she adds.
“A bite left untreated can be very dangerous,” she says, but, “a rapid visit to the ER can typically save an envenomated person.”
People who encounter rattlesnakes, which she says are found in every state except Hawaii, Alaska and Rhode Island, should stay calm.
“One of the worst things you can do when coming across a rattlesnake is to start panicking,” the fire department says. “Snakes rely on vibrations in the ground to determine where you are. If you start moving fast and abruptly, you’ll only scare the snake more.”
If you see a snake in the distance, “you can easily walk around it without frightening it,” according to fire officials.
But, “if the first indication of a rattlesnake’s presence is the sound of its rattle, you’ve already startled it. Instead of running, stay still. Chances are, the snake will stop rattling and slither off after it has calmed down.”
Trying to grab it is a bad idea, Emily Taylor says.
“No one should ever attempt to handle a rattlesnake with their hands,” she says. “Most bites occur when people try to handle a rattlesnake.”