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Rattlesnakes, and fresh rattlesnake stories, come out of the woodwork

April 22, 2009 |  9:25 am


An item I posted about my encounter last week with a rattlesnake received only four comments from others who have seen rattlers this hiking season, but I've also received e-mails and phone calls.

Karin Klein, an L.A. Times colleague, e-mailed to say that she and her daughter were hiking in Coal Canyon within Chino Hills State Park when they encountered a rattlesnake lying under a bush alongside the trail. "Unfortunately, my 11-year-old daughter was with me AND I didn't bring a walking stick AND this was a weird snake," she wrote.

Klein explained that the snake coiled and made small striking motions but would not slither away and continued rattling. She and her daughter, who was behind her, backed away in opposite directions. When Klein asked her daughter to walk toward her, the snake resumed rattling, preventing her from uniting with her mother.

"This happened like five times over," Klein wrote. "I had to get her over to my side of the snake for us to leave the park. Eventually, I had her walk in a loop off-trail, on the opposite side from the snake, stepping very carefully in case there were more snakes in the brush."

Rattler3_opt It was unusual behavior. Rattlers typically aren't defensive unless cornered and do not care for their young, so this seems merely to be a case where the snake felt cornered or harassed. I have a call in to the Department of Fish and Game and will update this portion of the item later.

One of the calls I received was from Marlon Meade, an avid fisherman, who cautioned that water levels were increasing at some Southern California reservoirs, flooding rattlesnake nests. Meade's favorite local fishery is Irvine Lake in Silverado Canyon. 

Meade said he has seen rattlesnakes in the water and has watched comical scenes in which fishermen in small boats have tried fending off snakes seeking refuge on their vessels.

Meade the other day was stepping off a boat at Irvine Lake when he pulled back abruptly. A snake was  stretched out where he'd been about to step. It was a gopher snake, but with this being rattlesnake season, it startled the angler nonetheless.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos by Department of Fish and Game (top) and Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times