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IMO, maintaining awareness does not require working yourself up to levels of high anxiety. I shoot a lot of Aridzona's monsoonal weather during the evening and after dark, and encounter multiple snakes each year. If walking/hiking, simply make a conscious habit of scanning the ground ahead. If stationary, _always_ look before moving, and never reach down to ground level without making a thorough visual search for any of the buggers.
The critters will not slither up and attack you for the heck of it. While standing still, admiring the weather, I've had snakes unknowingly approach me to within a few feet before I spotted them. If this happens, don't freak out - your leap to safety may drop you onto another biting, stinging, poking, or impaling desert denizen. Plot an escape path and take one big step away. Crisis averted. (You may even find the subsequent adrenaline rush to be rather pleasant! )
Obviously, if you're doing any work in tall grass, some of the above may not suffice. Best get some protective clothing as suggested. Since you have a basic snake phobia, some manner of de-sensitization will likely help. Visit a nature museum, etc. where you can handle some herps. Once you can appreciate them to some degree, the stress of an unexpected encounter will plummet. Heck, you may even wind up photographing them!
(edit) Found these folks - http://www.exoticanimalworld.com/directions.asp Go play with their snakes!
Edited on Feb 26, 2013 at 09:05 PM · View previous versions