by David DeMullé
The warmer weather calls to outdoors enthusiasts and snakes alike, making encounters of the slithering kind inevitable. Sunland-Tujunga has a variety of snakes, most of which are harmless. The exception is California’s only native venomous snake – the rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans— on rare occasions even death, as was evidenced in May when a rattlesnake bite killed a Riverside County man. While generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing.
Although scary, the California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for only about 800 bites each year with about one to two deaths. Here in SunlandTujunga the rattlesnake species we can expect to find include the Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Speckled rattlesnake, Red Diamond rattlesnake, Southern Pacific, Great Basin rattlesnake and the Mojave rattlesnake.
Just use common sense! The possibility of finding a rattlesnake shouldn’t stop anyone from venturing outdoors, but there are several precautions that can be taken to lessen the chance of being bitten when out in snake country — which is just about anywhere in California.
The Dos & Don’ts When Walking or Hiking
When hiking, stick to well-used trails. Wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Don’t step or put your hands where you can’t see. Avoid wandering around in the dark. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them. Be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Always avoid walking through dense brush or willow thickets.
Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
Is It A Rattlesnake Or Isn’t It?
Many a useful and non-threatening snake has suffered a quick death from a frantic human who has mistakenly identified a gopher snake, racer or other as a rattlesnake. This usually happens when a snake assumes an instinctual defensive position used to bluff adversaries. A gopher snake has the added unfortunate trait of imitating a rattlesnake by flattening its head and body, vibrating its tail, hissing and actually striking if approached too closely