'This is their home': How to stay safe during rattlesnake season from a snake expert

ByMelissa Pixcar via KGO logo
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
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EXPERT TIPS: How to stay safe during rattlesnake season

ANTIOCH, Calif. (KGO) -- Spring has finally arrived, flowers are blooming, and birds are chirping. In the Bay Area that also means that are slithering into Rattlesnake season!

Before you go out and enjoy the great outdoors it is important to remember that the Bay Area is home to a great amount of wildlife especially Northern Pacific rattlesnakes. It is important to remember that rattlesnakes are capable of causing major harm.

"Rattlesnake season starts when the first warm days of the year come," said Kevin Dixon, a Naturalist for East Bay Regional Park District.

In the spring time is when they can get all their work done and that is when you see them on the trails and in the fields and that is the time to be most aware of rattlesnakes."

Warmer days in the Bay Area brings out the venomous reptiles out from the ground to look for food and to mate.

ABC7 went to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch to learn more about the venomous creatures.

"You look around and all you see is green. All the plants are in their fullest growth. All the insects are eating, all of the rodents are eating there is plenty of food out there and they are out looking for food and they are out looking for mates," said Dixon.

How to avoid running into a rattlesnake

During the hot and cold seasons the snakes rest underground where the temperature is constant and they are able to regulate their body temperature. So obviously, don't go digging around in any holes.

Also, stay on designated trails. It is important to keep your hands and feet in an area where you can see them.

Rattlesnakes like to hide under rocks and tall grassy areas.

"If you don't put your hands and feet in the wrong place and if you don't provoke rattlesnakes you are totally safe around them," said Dixon.

"When you see one on the trail you should just appreciate it, watch it, don't be afraid of it and be aware that you are here. And when you are here you are actually in their home."

If the snake does not crawl away, turn around and try to enjoy nature another day.

Look around before taking a rest. Rattlesnakes like to hide in shady and cool areas too.

Rattlesnakes can appear close to home. Keep your yard free from lumber and rock piles.

How to spot a rattlesnake

Snakes can often look a like but Northern Pacific rattlesnakes have some easy to identify characteristics to look out for. A Northern Pacific rattlesnake by their yellow, greenish brown colors.

Their necks are narrow and heads are a triangular-shape. The Northern Pacific rattlesnake looks similar to the non-venomous gopher snake because they have the same brown spot-like pattern, but a gopher snake's head is slightly wider than the neck.

A gopher snake is more shiny than a rattlesnake whose skin is more dull looking.

A gopher snake is more slender than a rattlesnake.

What to do if you do run into a snake?

Do not come close to the rattlesnake. If you come across a snake on the trail you can just wait for it to crawl away, or turn around. "They don't want anything to do with you. To them you are a big predator," said Dixon.

"If a rattlesnake is upset and it's cornered. It doesn't have another place to run to like a bush or tall grass or something. That is when you see it sit up and make an "S" pattern in its neck so it can be prepared to defend itself.

Their first line of defense is to remain still and rattle their tails as a warning. The best thing to do is to just leave them alone.

If you do get bitten...

If someone happens to get bit by a rattlesnake stay calm and seek immediate medical attention.

Elevate the bite and remove all jewelry near the bite that can constrict the swelling.

Call the hospital on your way so they are prepared to treat you as needed.

...But not all bites are dangerous

Rattlesnakes can give "dry bites" which do not contain venom or dangerously venomous bites. Seek immediate medical treatment right away.

They can control how much venom they inject by their fangs.

A dead snake can also inject venom by the reflexes in their jaws.

Why we want to protect rattlesnakes

Northern Pacific rattlesnakes are vital to the ecosystem by protecting it from rodents who can destroy it.

"This is their home, and we want to respect their habitat, we want them to be here," said Dixon. You don't want to be afraid you want to be aware."