Rattlesnake Season Returns to Northern California
● By Steven Jack
The northern Pacific rattlesnake (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons)
While the majority of snakes spotted in the area are harmless, residents in recent days have reported a number of sightings of the venomous rattlesnake. While only dangerous if provoked, the indigenous northern Pacific rattlesnake does help control the local reptile, rodent and insect population, according the California Department Fish and Wildlife.
"Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat," the department says on its website. "Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles."
About 800 snakebites are reported in California each year with only one to two causing death. Most bites occur between April and October.
The CDFW offers the following tips in dealing with the local rattlesnake population.
- Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
- When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. 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. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
- Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
- Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
- Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
- Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom.
- Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.
- Stay calm
- Wash the bite area gently with soap and water
- Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling
- Immobilize the affected area
- Transport safely to the nearest medical facility
INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE