A warmer winter is causing snakes to be active sooner and local reptile experts are urging people to rethink their Easter plans.

The Phoenix Herpetological Society (PHS) says calls for snake removal are up 25 percent from the same time last year. Their experts have been removing snakes from yards as early as January, which is unusual, according to Russ Johnson, president of PHS. With that much activity Johnson is trying to get the word out not to hide Easter eggs where a snake may also be hiding.

“You can put them on the ground, but do it somewhere in the open,” Johnson said. “Parents want to shove it where kids have to stick their hands under a bush and feel around. There could be a scorpion there or a snake there. We live in the desert. Little kids don’t need to look for two hours to find Easter eggs. The faster they can fill their basket, the happier they are.”

Snakes don’t have ears, Johnson said, so they cannot hear people coming. When startled, they will bite.

“A snake has a brain less than the size of a pea,” he said. “Everything is instinctual. It doesn’t say much for us when we get outsmarted by a snake. We just need to use our senses and logic to stay out of trouble.”

Snakes like to curl up in damp, shady areas so they can often be found near plants with a drip system or near pool toys. PHS recommends hiding Easter eggs off the ground on patio furniture or in tall flower pots, or in a place kids can see.

If a snake is spotted PHS recommends just walking away and calling to have it professionally removed from the yard. An estimated 80 to 90 percent of rattlesnake bites happen when homeowners are trying to move the snake themselves. For $75 PHS will send someone out to remove the snake and release it back into the desert. That $75 goes to taking care of the animals at PHS.

“If you get bit by a rattle snake your blood pressure is going to go up 60 points minimum because you’re scared to death, but if you are healthy you are not going to die,” Johnson said. “You are going to want to, because it’s painful, but you’ll be OK.”

Johnson said if you are bit, stay calm and call 911. Keep the bite still and elevate the extremity that has been bit. Do not use ice on the bite, use a tourniquet or try to cut open the wound.

For more information about PHS, call (602) 513-HERP (4377) or go to

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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