Arizona Gold Prospecting Rattlesnake Safety

Learn about the devastating power of diamondback rattlesnake bites!

A rattlesnake envenomation can be a life-threatening event. There are potentially devastating physical AND financial complications for those unlucky enough to experience a rattlesnake bite!

Arizona Gold Prospecting Rattlesnake Safety

Arizona Gold Prospecting Rattlesnake Safety

One big rattlesnake


Arizona gold prospecting and especially Arizona gold metal detecting can be both very rewarding and very dangerous.  Whether you’re inexperienced gold prospector or just starting out in this wonderful Hobby,  you should always keep your personal safety in mind.

We’re going out in wilderness areas we are on many occasions you’ll be out of cell phone range.  Plus, here in the Sonoran Desert besides the native wildlife, a prospector has to keep an eye out for the desert vegetation as well as unfriendly insects.

I would say of the various ways that we prospect in the desert, probably the most dangerous is gold metal detecting. To be successful in metal detecting, you have to search the dry washes in canyons  and usually cover a lot of ground.  So, unlike dry washing, high banking  or sluicing,  were you set up your equipment usually in one area and work that area,  in metal detecting you have to be on the move to be successful.

This video talks about rattlesnakes and especially the Western diamondback rattlesnake which is probably the main one that you can encounter here in the Sonoran Desert.

My main advice would be, never go gold metal detecting without a buddy!  Perhaps, just as important, at least here in the Arizona desert, is always wear a good set of snake boots or snake leggings.  Keep in mind I’m not talking about regular leggings but ones that are made specifically to stop a snake bite from getting through.

Arizona rattlesnake - Arizona Gold Prospecting Rattlesnake Safety

Arizona rattlesnake

We are in the rattlesnakes home and they’re really not out to get us, just to protect themselves.  So if you do encounter one, just give it a wide berth and move on.  I’m sure as prospectors we all scan the ground ahead of us and around the bushes that we pass by.  But, a lot of times it’s not what you can see  right in front of you,  but what’s on that other side of the boulder you’re stepping over that can harm you!

As prospector’s, I’m sure we all know that the old timers stacked up rocks by the sides of rich washes. If you encounter these stacked rocks when prospecting, keep in mind, that many of them are homes to Diamondbacks as well as scorpions.

Arizona scorpion - Arizona Gold Prospecting Rattlesnake Safety

Arizona scorpion in my gold scoop

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

he Arizona bark scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in North America, and its venom can cause severe pain (coupled with numbness, tingling, and vomiting) in adult humans, typically lasting between 24 and 72 hours. Temporary dysfunction in the area stung is common; e.g. a hand or possibly arm can be immobilized or experience convulsions. It also may cause loss of breath for a short time. Due to the extreme pain induced, many victims describe sensations of electrical jolts after envenomation. Two recorded fatalities have occurred in the state of Arizona since 1968; the number of victims stung each year in Arizona and New Mexico is estimated to be in the thousands.


An antivenom was developed for this species at Arizona State University by Dr. Herbert L. Stahnke, and produced in quantities sufficient to treat individuals within the state of Arizona. This antivenom was not FDA approved, but use within the state of Arizona was allowable and very successful in shortening the duration of symptoms and hospitalization. Production of this antivenom ceased by 2000 and the product was unavailable by 2004. A Mexican-produced antivenom, Anascorp [Antivenin Centruroides (scorpion) F(ab′), Laboratorios Silanes, Instituto Bioclon SA de CV], received FDA approval on August 3, 2011, and is now in use.

First aid

Basic first aid measures can be used to help remediate Arizona bark scorpion stings:

  • Clean sting site with soap and water
  • Apply a cool compress (cool cloth)
  • Take acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen for local pain and swelling

Medical emergencies

Arizona poison control centers suggest immediate medical attention if severe symptoms occur, particularly in young children. The Poison Center may be reached at 1-800-222-1222.


Arizona gold prospectors should be extremely cautious around the old mine adits  and the all-too-common rotting debris piles around mines and old-time miners camps.

Personally I also carry a very small snake bite extraction kit ( see link below) made by Sawyer.  Basically, if you do get a bite this device creates a tremendous amount of suction and actually can suck out the venom true the original puncture bite.  Please understand that even though it doesn’t involve any cutting, is still a controversial method.  So, perhaps the next time you’re at your doctor’s office ,you should ask them what their advice would be for the best way to handle a snake bite.

Obviously, I can give you medical advice, but, I would think the best thing to do if bitten would be to immediately call for help  and try not to exert yourself.

Basically, what I’m saying here is that although an encounter with a rattlesnake may be pretty rare, you should be prepared and always exercise caution went out in wilderness areas.


Be sure to view our Gold nuggets for sale.

View our Natural Silver specimens

Also see the most expensive type of gold nuggets, the Crystalline Gold Nuggets

Subscribe to our Youtube Arizona Gold Prospecting channel