Dangerous Beauties: Rattlesnake Season in Southern California – June 2013

by Kyle Morales

It’s Spring in Southern California! This means allergy season, tax season, and generally warmer weather. With this increase in temperature comes an increase in activity from SoCals native wildlife. One type of animal that Socal residents need to keep an eye out for is the varied species of rattlesnake that will start to reappear as temperatures begin to rise. The most common rattlesnake species that Southern California residents may come in contact with include the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), the Red Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber), and especially the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri).

A mid sized Southern Pacific rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are most commonly found in deserts and around rocky areas. They are crepuscular, meaning they are mostly active around the early morning hours and during the night. Identifying rattlesnakes is easy enough due to their tell-tale rattle. However, babies may be too young to have developed a rattle and adults have often broken them off, so keep this in mind. The most reliable way to identify rattlesnake is to look at their body structure. Rattlers will have a triangular head that is bigger than their necks. They have thick bodies that are dull in color and not glossy like that of its nonvenomous, and similar looking neighbor, the gopher snake.

A baby Southern Pacific in a staff member’s yard.

If you come into contact with a rattler the best thing to remember is to stay calm. Any species of snake will be more afraid of you than you are of it, and will not willingly try to bite you unless it feels threatened. Rattlesnakes will also warn you through their rattle. The only time where a bite may occur is if you startle a snake suddenly and it is within a close enough distance to bite you. Generally, rattlesnakes can be easy going animals that do not want to bite, instead preferring to stay hidden or get away from you. If you come into contact with a rattlesnake while hiking or doing any outdoor activity simply leave it alone. If you come across one in your backyard or home, again leave it alone. No matter how quick you think you are and how slow you think the snake is you do not want to risk getting bitten. Rattlesnakes can strike in the blink of an eye, much faster than you can move out of the way. There are many organizations that will be glad to assist you should you come across any type of wildlife. One such organization that removes animals free of charge is Project Wildlife ((619) 225-9453). They will come to your location and safely remove animals and relocate them. Often, people will call local police and fire stations. While you may get a quick response from these organizations you will also get individuals who are not trained to deal with a quick, venomous rattler – it is best to leave their removal to professionals.

Overall, rattlesnakes are beautiful animals that are an important part of the local ecosystem. These shy reptiles deserve much respect and space and are best left alone.

Again, do not try to move an animal yourself. Contact a trained specialist who will be more than happy to remove the animal. Again, these animals deserve lots of space and respect, give it to them.

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