What to Know
- Snake season has begun in California, and rattlesnakes are likely to show up in neighborhoods despite living in the wild.
- Most rattlesnake bites occur between April and October.
- The chance of being bitten by a rattlesnake is small, but it could have dire consequences.
As springtime blooms and you shed that winter coat, rattlesnakes native to Southern California are shedding their skin and getting back out into the sun.
It's rattlesnake season in Southern California, and the dos and don'ts of being well protected are vital information. Since most snake bites occur between April and October, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is providing tips on how to best avoid a dangerous situation.
First, it's important to know that rattlesnakes will mostly mind their own business. The chances of actually being bitten are relatively small, and it usually only happens after a snake has been threatened or accidentally touched.
CDFW’s Keep Me Wild program coordinator, Lesa Johnson, supports this train of thought.
"Snakes really get an unfair bad rap, when they actually play an important role in California's ecosystems," said Johnson. "Taking the time to learn about safety precautions before going outdoors can make all the difference."
This doesn't make a bite any less dangerous, though. While only about one in 736 patients who suffer from a rattlesnake bite die, the National Center for Biotechnology Information states that the mortality rate for bites from a rattlesnake is higher than any other snake breed. Signs of contracting venom from a snakebite can range from swelling and redness to vomiting and circulatory failure. If you are bitten, you should seek help immediately at the nearest medical center.
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Snakes are so widespread in California that it's almost as likely for you to encounter one in your neighborhood as you would in the wild.
So, here are some helpful tips from the CDFW to keep you safe during slithering season:
- Stay on well-used trails when hiking.
- Don't touch freshly killed snakes – they can still be holding venom.
- Rattlesnakes can swim, so avoid grabbing what might look like a stick or branch when you're in a lake or river.
- Wear boots and loose-fitting pants. Don't wear flip flops.
- Shake out sleeping bags when camping.