As warm weather returns, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding the public to be rattlesnake safe.
All of California is snake country. Much like bats, rattlesnakes are often misunderstood. They play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping rodent populations under control.
California has six venomous snakes, all of which are various species of rattlesnake. They are heavy-bodied, blunt-tailed with triangular-shaped heads. A rattle may not always be present, as they are often lost through breakage and not developed on the young.
Rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and usually strike when threatened or provoked. Given room, they will retreat and want to be left alone. They are not confined to rural areas and have been found in urban environments, lakeside parks and golf courses.
The best protection against unwelcome rattlesnakes in the yard is to have a “rattlesnake-proof” fence. The fence should either be solid or with mesh no larger than one-quarter inch. It should be at least three feet high with the bottom buried a few inches in the ground.
Keep the fence clear of vegetation and debris. Encourage and protect kingsnakes, which prey on rattlesnakes, and other natural competitors like gopher snakes and racers.
On rare occasions, rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when humans are most active outdoors. The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year in the U.S. with one to two deaths.
CDFW recommends the following outdoor safety precautions:
-Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants.
-Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
-When hiking, stick to well-used trails.
-Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
-Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark.
-Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood.
- Remember, rattlesnakes can swim so never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers.
-Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
What to do in the event of a snake bite:
-Stay calm and wash the bite area gently with soap and water.
-Remove watches, rings, etc., which may constrict swelling.
-Immobilize the affected area and go to the nearest medical facility.
What you should NOT do after a rattlesnake bite:
DON’T apply a tourniquet.
DON’T pack the bite area in ice.
DON’T cut the wound with a knife or razor.
DON’T use your mouth to suck out the venom.
DON’T let the victim drink alcohol.
For more general information on rattlesnakes, visit: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74119.html.