California is home to more than half a dozen species of rattlesnakes. As the weather warms the state's only native venomous snake becomes more active, increasing the likelihood of their being encountered both in the wilderness and in residential areas.
While the odds of being bitten by a rattlesnake are slim (there are about 800 cases nationwide reported annually to the American Assn. of Poison Control Centers) and should not deter anyone from venturing outdoors, the California Department of Fish and Game shares the following precautionary tips which can lessen the chance of being bitten when out in snake country:
-- Wear hiking boots and loose-fitting long pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas.
-- 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, 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 door sills as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edges 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.
Information on rattlesnake identification and what to do in the event of a snake bite can be found on the California Poison Control website.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo: Mojave rattlesnake. Credit: George Wilhelm / Los Angeles Times