Warning: SoCal In For A ‘Big Season For Snakes’

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TEMECULA, CA — A Southern California woman was airlifted from a hiking trail where she was bitten by a rattlesnake this week, kicking off snake season in dramatic fashion.

Rattlesnakes are the only venomous snakes in California, and they are drawn out of hibernation by the warmer spring weather. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, they will not strike unless startled or stepped upon. Residents are advised to keep their eyes open for snakes when visiting local parks and hiking trails throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

If you see a sign declaring rattlesnakes may be nearby, pay attention. (Photo Credit: Ashley Ludwig)

Already this sping, rattlesnake encounters have startled area residents as the weather warmed. On Monday a woman hiking on the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Preserve was bitten by a rattlesnake and was airlifted from the remote area to a nearby hospital for treatment.

In the desert areas, residents need to take special precautions.

This spring, a family in La Cresta left a sliding glass door open and received an unwanted visitor in their game room. They discovered a large rattlesnake and called in a removal expert, Ryan Jessup of Ryan’s Rattlesnake Rescue.

With the Spring barely begun, the rescue is already busy.

“It’s the beginning of a big season for snakes,” Jessup told Patch.

According to the wildlife.ca.gov website, rattlesnakes become more active in early spring when they emerge from winter hibernation. They are found not only in wildland habitats but also in rural and urban areas. Since they are more active in warm weather, this can lead to encounters with humans and dogs.

Ryan’s Rattlesnake Rescue arrived to remove the rattlesnake from a La Cresta home.

In Southern California, there are three types of rattlesnakes you may see, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

  • Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake
  • Red Diamond Rattlesnake
  • Southern Pacific Rattlesnake

If you come face to face with a rattlesnake, following a few simple tips can lessen your chances of a snake bite:

  • If you see a snake, stop and keep a safe distance. Give the snake room to move away on its own.
  • Do not try to handle a snake. A snake will bite if provoked, so do not handle them.
  • When walking or hiking, stay on trails, sidewalks and cleared pathways.
  • Wear boots or closed shoes and long pants when working outdoors or walking in wooded areas.
  • Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.
  • Use a flashlight if walking at night in areas where snakes might be present.
  • Keep dogs on leashes and pet cats indoors to reduce their chances of encountering a snake.
  • If you find a sick or injured snake, call the Sheriff’s Department non-emergency line to connect with Animal Control.
  • If you are bitten by a snake that you believe could be venomous, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

“To distinguish rattlesnakes from harmless native snakes, remember rattlesnakes have a distinct, triangular-shaped head and usually have rattles at the end of their tail. They do not always rattle before striking,” the department website reads. “If you see a rattlesnake, back away and avoid the animal – it strikes humans only in self–defense…Prevention is key to avoiding unwanted encounters.”

Rattlesnakes and Dogs:

According to the Fish and Wildlife website, some dog owners opt to have their dogs trained to avoid rattlesnakes.

“Some people think this is cruel to the dogs because it uses electrical shock collars to shock the dog when it gets near a snake, and even cruel to the snakes,” they wrote. “The training does not always appear to be effective on all dogs. Organizations like the Humane Society offer training for a price. Natural Solutions is an online company that also sells this training service (in Southern California.

The rattlesnake vaccine is also available for dogs. Check with your local veterinarian if the vaccine is right for your pet.

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