Keep your distance: Staying safe during rattlesnake season

Keep your distance: Staying safe during rattlesnake season
Rattlesnakes are a big reason people should never hike alone. Courtesy photo

While swimming in a lake or river, do not grab what look like sticks or branches. Rattlesnakes can swim.

This is just one fact even longtime California residents may not know.

Here is another fact: the demographic most likely to be bitten by a rattlesnake are alcohol-fueled young men, said Ana Lutz, education manager for the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy.

“Don’t even think about going out to the desert to wrangle up some ratt’lers,” she said.

It’s rattlesnake season and officials from the conservancy want you to know because most rattlesnake bites happen between April and October when humans and snakes are most active outdoors.

And rattlesnakes don’t just show up out in the brush or desert, they can be found on golf courses, river and lakeside parks and even inside your home if you’re not careful.

The number one thing to remember is don’t try to pick them up or try to kill them. And if hiking in the desert or brushy wild areas, wear boots, long pants, stay on well-worn trails and avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush.

Don’t go barefoot, wear sandals or flip flops in those areas, Lutz said. If a rattlesnake is startled, it may not rattle a warning and simply strike. Don’t put your hands or feet where you can’t see them and shake out sleeping bags before saying goodnight when camping, she added.

“If you do hear a rattlesnake while you are hiking, stop, stay calm and tell others around you where the rattling came from, from up ahead, or from the side,” she said.

Keep pets close and on leashes when hiking with your pet, speak to your vet about what to do if your dog is bitten. There is effective canine rattlesnake antivenin, but it is pricy, Lutz said.

If you are bitten take off rings and watches which might constrict swelling and get medical help right away.

“My advice is to stay calm. They don’t like us and most of us don’t like them, but appreciate their place in the environment,” she said. “They help with the rodent population and keep other species in check.”

If you come face-to-face with a rattlesnake, don’t make any sudden moves, but back track slowly, Lutz said.

“Don’t hike alone. There are lots of reasons, but rattlesnakes are a big one,” she said. “If you do get bitten you may need to have someone call for help or help you walk.”

There were 156 snake bites recorded locally in 2016 and 232 bites in 2017.

“They are not the enemy. They are so misunderstood,” she said.

If you see a rattlesnake in your yard, keep your distance, keep your eye on it and call the local animal services emergency number at (619) 236-2341.

To learn more about rattlesnakes and other snakes that populate the area, sign up for a class about snakes which will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 9 at the Del Mar Library. The event is free.

“The Southwestern Field Herping Association will send one of their speakers. It is an information session,” Lutz said.

To sign up or learn more, call (858) 755-6956.

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