Rising temperatures bring rattlesnakes out in droves

Rattlesnakes are more likely to be out and about when temperatures rise. Thinkstock/Ingram Publishing photo

As the weather heats up, Riverside County Animal Services is warning the public to be aware of rattlesnake activity. They warn you may see more rattlesnakes out and about.

According to John Welsh, senior public information specialist with Riverside County Department of Animal Services, while dangerous, rattlesnakes have an important role to play in the environment.

“These snakes should not be feared,” he said. “Yes, they’re venomous and can be dangerous if someone attempts to handle them, but they are also a critical part of our ecosystem. They cut down on rodent population… they are a food source for birds of prey, etc.”

There are six species of rattlesnakes found in Riverside County, according to Kim McWhorter, a field agent with Animal Services.

“From my observations, the most common our officers encounter are the Southern Pacific and the Red Diamond, because these species ranges overlap the most populated areas in the county,” she said. “The Mohave rattlesnake only occurs in a spot of the Northern most boarder of Riverside County. The other species we have include the Western Diamondback and sidewinder occurring in the Eastern county and the speckled rattlesnake, which is pretty much throughout.”

Snake sightings usually spike during hot spells like the one experienced throughout Southern California last week.

If you see a rattlesnake on your property, County Animal Services recommends keeping an eye on it from a safe distance and giving them a call. Animal control officers will impound the snake and remove it to an area where it doesn’t pose a risk to the public.

If you live in Riverside County, call Animal Services at (951) 358-7387 for help removing rattlesnakes from your residence.

“Our field officers are trained to properly assist residents with snake issues,” Welsh said. “We will remove the snake and attempt to relocate, when possible.”

It is important to remember that rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas, according to a press release issued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. They have been found in urban areas, on riverbanks and lakeside parks and at golf courses.

The following safety precautions, courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, can be taken to reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a rattlesnake.

Be alert. Like all reptiles, rattlesnakes are sensitive to the ambient temperature and will adjust their behavior accordingly. After a cold or cool night, they will attempt to raise their body temperature by basking in the sun midmorning. To prevent overheating during hot days of spring and summer, they will become more active at dawn, dusk or night.

Wear sturdy boots and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through brushy, wild areas. Startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively.

Children should not wear flip-flops while playing outdoors in snake country.

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. 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 doorsteps 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, as it can still inject venom.

Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

Leash your dog when hiking in snake country. Dogs are at increased risk of being bitten due to holding their nose to the ground while investigating the outdoors. Speak to your veterinarian about canine rattlesnake vaccines and what to do if your pet is bitten.

For more information on ranges and species of snakes, visit www.californiaherps.com.

For more information on rattlesnake safety, including what to do in the event of a snake bite, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/news/snake.

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