(Editor's note:This article was originally published in 2010).
Zen Mocarski confirmed an answer that he admitted “is not one you necessarily want to hear.”
“All snakes can swim,” said the former spokesperson for the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Kingman office. “Now the question, is it common? The answer would be no. In Arizona, we do not have any true water snakes. … I have heard reports of rattlesnakes in the water. Is it common? The answer would be: It depends how you define common, but the answer would be no.”
The Game and Fish Department reminds residents each spring to be on the look out for venomous animals, such as rattlesnakes, sidewinders, and black widow spiders.
A boater photographed what Mocarski confirmed to be a rattlesnake swimming in Lake Havasu.
Mocarski said that although the site is uncommon, the reptiles could still strike and bite while in the water.
“Absolutely they could if they so chose,” Mocarski said. “They might view somebody on an inner tube … as a little island and they are trying to get out of the water. (They are) not necessarily trying to get after you, but just looking at getting of the water. It’s not real common. Can it happen? Sure it can. We’re not here to freak anybody out.”
Mocarski said swimming snakes would at least have their head out of the water, and their bodies’ movement would look similar to their land behavior. He said two rattlesnake myths are they have to be coiled to strike and they rattle before striking.
He said gopher snakes, which are non-venomous, resemble rattlesnakes and spend a lot of time near water.
He said area residents might start seeing snakes near roadways this time of year as the pavement helps to warm their body temperature, whereas during the summer months, the reptiles tend to stay under bushes or rocks to protect themselves from the heat.
“You can outrun a snake,” he said. “It looks like they are moving really fast because of that body movement. You can get away.”
He reminds residents to not step or reach into any blind spots.
Mocarski said if bitten by a snake, the victim should stay calm, remove any restrictive clothing to allow blood to flow freely through the body and seek immediate medical care. He said ice should not be applied to the area, and do not attempt to “suck” the venom out.
“The more excited you get, the faster you pump the venom through your system and realize that you have some time to get to a medical facility,” he said. “I’m not here to scare you. I’m here to protect you.”