PCT Hiker Hospitalized After Rattlesnake Bite

A Pacific Crest Trail hiker was airlifted to the hospital after being bitten by a rattlesnake north of Tehachapi, California on Friday. The hiker’s three companions were able to relay the emergency and provide their location to the Kern County Emergency Communications Center, which promptly dispatched rescue teams to their aid.

Rescue teams used special offroad vehicles to reach the patient and rendered first aid until a Mercy Air helicopter arrived. The patient was then airlifted to a nearby hospital for further medical care.

“Today’s rescue was an excellent example of a positive patient outcome due to a prompt coordinated response and the use of specialty equipment,” stated a Kern County Fire Department press release.

The hiker, who wished to remain anonymous, reached out to The Trek to clarify that they were released from the hospital after making a full recovery. They expressed gratitude for the “quick and competent actions” of fellow hikers and rescuers.

Rescue teams used special offroad equipment, including the pictured vehicle, to reach the injured hiker. Photo: Kern County Fire Department

Rattlesnake Safety

Rattlesnakes are a common sight on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although rarely aggressive, rattlesnakes may bite if they feel surprised or cornered. Antivenom drugs are so effective that bites are rarely fatal, but an untreated bite can cause significant tissue damage or death after several hours.

Hikers should back away and give the snakes plenty of space if they encounter them on the trail. Stay at least 10 steps away from the snake and don’t wave things at it or try to push it out of the way with a stick—both of which tend to further agitate the snakes, according to the Sonoma County, California park service.

If the snake won’t move away, standing a safe distance away and stomping can alert it to your presence and encourage it to move off the trail.

If you are bitten, remain calm and try to minimize exertion, as increasing your heart rate can accelerate the venom’s spread.  Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you are in a remote area, contact emergency services and follow their instructions. If you don’t know when help will come, it is better to walk out as calmly as you can toward the nearest assistance than to stay still.

Additional rattlesnake bite tips:

  • Remove watches, bands, or jewelry that could restrict swelling
  • Keep the bite roughly level with your heart
  • Do not apply a tourniquet or cut the bite to drain venom
  • Do not apply ice or drink alcohol

Featured image: Kern County Fire Department.

Article updated 06/12/23 to include an update on the hiker’s status.

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Comments 7

  • Jan Monster : Jun 12th

    Kelly, I appreciate your blogs about safety incidents on the PCT. They are very informative. Thank you, Jan

  • Miner : Jun 16th

    It would be useful to know more details about what happened in order to make this a learning experience for future hikers. Even knowing where the hiker was bit would tell us something.

    • Randall : Jun 16th

      @Miner Kelly did say the hiker was bitten north of Tehachapi 😉

      Also, I’d like to commend Kelly and the other contributors for an excellent website. Well written and useful information!

  • jon Zebill : Jun 16th

    Another good tip is don’t use 2 ear buds. You can’t hear the rattling if you are jamming to your favorite play list or podcast.
    Unless you step right on them snakes don’t want to mess with big people. The rattle is a warning to stay away.

  • Dadska : Jun 16th

    My daughter, Kidska, while taking a rest, had just been passed by the hiker in the group who was bitten. She told my wife that she was on location when the hiker was airlifted out and that fortunately, the bite was a “dry bite”, which is not as dangerous a venomous bite, but can still be very painful. Luckily, someone had an emergency beacon to notify rescuers of the incident and the victim was able to receive medical attention quickly.

  • Scott Iceberg : Jun 29th

    Sounds like a dry strike. I’m a big fan of adult rattle snakes which rattle and dry strike. Some of the younger snakes that have been conditioned to not rattle scare me. They will pump every last drop of venom into your.


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