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Snake season slithers into town

As weather warms, these cold-blooded carnivores like to make an appearance

Posted: May 5, 2009 10:13 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Rattlesnakes, like the one pictured above, appear more often as the weather warms because the cold-blooded reptiles rely on outside heat to survive.

 
When Bill Wallace heard an unusual noise coming from his yard, he didn't expect to find a two-and-one-half foot rattlesnake nestled up against his home's sliding door.

"It was right up against the center divider, sitting up against my house on the welcome mat," said Wallace, who lives in Saugus near a wash. "I walked away from it, yelled into the house so they would shut the screen door so the snake wouldn't get into the house, and corralled the domestic animals."

Wallace said the snake's rattle sounded like the buzz of a short in an electrical box. He took the proper precaution by not touching the snake, then called animal control officers to come to retrieve it.

A Placerita Nature Center staffer said it is about that time for the slithery, warmth-seeking creatures to come out of hibernation.

"Usually we start seeing them late in the spring, which is when it starts warming up," said Jessica Nikolai, a recreation services leader for the Nature Center. "Rattlesnakes do hibernate over the winter and because they are exothermic, which means they rely on outside heat sources to warm themselves ... summer is usually the peak of rattlesnake season."

Nikolai said it's not unusual to find rattlers close to homes.

"Rattlesnakes prefer to hide and hunt in areas where they feel safe," she said. "That could be under wood piles, near long grass or sometimes near your house."

A practical way for residents to protect themselves from unwelcomed visits is to rattlesnake-proof your house however possible, she said.

"You just have to make the area less rattlesnake-friendly by clearing away brush, clothing, any entrances, closing up any holes they might be able to get themselves into," she said. "Don't leave pet food outside because that might attract mice and rats. And wherever you find prey, there's definitely going to be predators."

Rattlesnakes will bite if provoked, Nikolai said. When someone is bitten, they should get to a hospital.

"Don't panic, because that gets the blood flowing," she said. "Walk slowly. It's really just about trying to leave your heart rate at a good level so you're not pumping more and more blood. Stay calm and get yourself to a hospital."

Rattlesnakes usually avoid human confrontations and can feel humans approaching through ground vibrations, Nikolai said. It is best to stay calm, let them pass and if they do not, call the local animal control center.

"We get a lot of calls from people in the canyon (areas)," she said. "That is, in a way, because we're starting to encroach on their territory. In a way, we moved into their backyard."

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