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Spike in Rattlesnake Sightings Prompts New Warning From Police

These venomous reptiles are getting increasingly stealthy in their travels.

Encountering wildlife on hiking trails or while camping is to be expected, especially with summer in full swing. And while many of us would like to believe that certain animals, like venomous snakes, are sequestered in mountains, swamps, and other natural habitats, that is rarely the case. In fact, if the news has taught us anything, it's that snakes are only getting more curious about their human surroundings. And now, officials have issued a new public safety alert due to a sudden spike in residential rattlesnake sightings.

RELATED: Man Finds 3-Foot Rattlesnake in His Garage—Where It Was Hiding.

On July 5, the St. Clair Township Police Department in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, posted a warning on Facebook after an officer spotted a giant timber rattlesnake slithering on a major state highway. The organization is reminding nearby residents that interacting with this venomous species can have dangerous—and potentially life-threatening—consequences.

"It has been brought to our attention that some of the [rattlesnakes] have made their way down off the mountain," the police department wrote on Facebook. "If one is seen, please leave it alone. They can be dangerous. If needed, you can spray them with a water hose, this typically will move them along."

Also known as the American viper, timber rattlesnakes are heavy-bodied reptiles that are gray with an orange, yellow, brown, or black stripe down their back, per the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. An adult viper can grow to be seven feet, and their venom is potent enough to kill a human. A timber rattlesnake bite is considered a critical medical emergency—in other words, you want to stay far away from these wild creatures.

Timber rattlesnakes are most active between April and October, and become increasingly adventurous in their travels when food and water supplies run low.

"If there's not a lot of rainfall, there's not a lot of water available for the rattlesnake, or the food that the rattlesnakes are looking for. Then that's the reason why the rattlesnakes may be moving around a little bit," Mike Parker, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's communications director, told CBS News.

RELATED: The Best Things to Wear to Protect Yourself During Rattlesnake Season.

Local officers said rattlesnakes may stealthily creep onto your property in "bushes and other quiet shady spots."

And while the American viper gets a bad rap, "they're normally very docile" and not "much of a threat unless you threaten them," according to Parker.

The local police department also reminded community members that timber rattlesnakes are protected by the Commonwealth and, therefore, can't be captured or killed without proper permits.

If you do see a rattlesnake, officials advise keeping your distance and carrying on as usual. "The best thing to do is just let that snake move along," Parker said.

However, "If one is endangering your residence or family, please call into 911 and a Conservation Officer from the Fish and Boat Commission will come out and capture/ relocate the snake," the police department added in their post.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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