Hiking, biking, and other outdoor adventures can put unsuspecting humans into contact with scary creatures that lurk in dark corners. A number of snakes, spiders, and scorpions that can deliver a nasty and potentially deadly bite or sting live in Utah. Bites and death rarely occur, but it's best to stay out of the way of venomous creepy crawlers.
Throughout the state, the main creatures to watch out for are the Great Basin rattlesnake, the black widow spider, and the hobo spider. About 9 species of scorpions live throughout Utah, but the only one considered dangerous, called the Arizona bark scorpion, stays pretty well contained in Kane County in the south-central part of the state just north of the Arizona border. If you plan to hike or camp in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you should remain aware of its possible presence.
Venomous snakes and spiders sometimes "dry bite," or bite without injecting venom, just to scare away annoying intruders.
Snakes in Utah
Contrary to common fears, rattlesnakes pose little danger to humans; like most wild creatures, they do everything they can to avoid humans. Most bites occur when people harass, touch, or try to kill a snake.
Rattlesnakes eat just 40 percent of their body weight in food per year (in contrast to the 2,000 pounds of food eaten each year by the average American). Rattlesnakes spend 90 percent of their time lying around. They conserve their energy except when actively hunting for food, making the likelihood of spotting one pretty slim.
You're most likely to see a rattlesnake in the summer, sunning itself on a rocky slope. If you do come across a rattlesnake on the trail, remain calm and keep your distance. Alert others to the snake's location, and move away without disturbing it. Utah law protects rattlesnakes, making it illegal to harass or kill one. If you or someone in your party gets bitten, remove any restrictive clothing or jewelry near the bite, and position the victim with the bite area below the heart, if possible. Seek medical treatment immediately.
Spiders in Utah
You can identify the most venomous spider in Utah, the black widow female, by the red hourglass on its spherical abdomen. The black widow typically only bites in defense of its eggs, but a successful strike can leave the victim debilitated with widespread muscle pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, and rarely, convulsions. These nocturnal creatures become more active at night, and you're most likely to find them lurking in dark corners of buildings.
Treat a black widow spider bite by cleaning the area with soap and water, and applying a mild antiseptic. Cover the area with a cool compress, and elevate the affected limb. Contact your physician, a hospital, or a poison control center for additional treatment.
Probably the most plentiful spider in Utah, hobos lurk at ground level in fields, wood and rock piles, and other outdoor locations. Researchers don't agree on the level of danger they pose to humans, with some arguing that they're harmless and others attributing necrotic lesions to them. If you do get bitten by a hobo, clean the area with soap and water, apply an antiseptic and a cool compress to reduce swelling and pain, and remain alert for any developing numbness, dizziness, or blistering at the bite site.
Seek immediate medical treatment in that case.
Scorpions in Utah
A sting from most of the scorpions found in Utah pose no more danger to humans than a bee sting: you can treat it with ice packs and over-the-counter painkillers. Arizona bark scorpion stings are the exception.
Found in the desert areas of south-central Utah, the bark scorpion can inject enough venom to cause problems for a human, with children and the elderly more susceptible than healthy adults. If you or someone in your group gets stung by an Arizona bark scorpion, clean the area, apply a cool compress in a 10-minutes-on/10-minutes-off pattern, and seek medical attention. Get to an emergency room or call 911 if someone experiences muscle twitching or thrashing; unusual head, neck, or eye movements; drooling; excessive sweating; rapid breathing; increased heart rate; or high blood pressure.
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