This spring has thus far been blessed with record high temperatures which are warmly welcoming people outdoors and into snake territory. The vast majority of snakes in California are harmless, save for one, the rattlesnake. California is home to eight species of rattlesnake; the one northern California is most familiar with is the northern Pacific rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes live in a variety of habitats including deserts, prairies, and forests, but prefer a rocky area that allows them to bask, hide, and hunt. All species of rattlesnake are keystone predators which are crucial to keeping the ecosystem in balance. Rattlesnakes are in the pit viper family and hunt with a neurotoxic venom that paralyses its prey. They hunt birds, rodents, insects, lizards and other snakes which help to keep disease spreading, pest, populations in check. Rattlesnakes are characterized by their triangular shaped head, elliptical pupil, fat bodies, and notorious rattler; many snakes and insects mimic this predator’s infamous rattle to prevent being eaten themselves.
Although potentially dangerous, the risk of being bitten by a rattlesnake is quite low. California reports approximately 800 snake bites per year with only 1-2 being fatal.
The rattlesnake is the definition of cautionary beauty; absolutely majestic and a specimen of evolutionary perfection, but deadly. Anyone who grew up the country is well aware of this snake’s power. Fortunately, the rattlesnake merely prefers to be left alone and will only strike when agitated or startled which allows it to coexist with people peacefully if everyone exerts a little caution in the warmer months.
To prevent a snake bite, never wear open toed shoes when walking in rural or overgrown areas, avoid tall grass, look before you grab, and maintain your yard. Make sure children are well informed and keep tall grass, bushes, wood piles, and rock piles far away from your home. Also, take extra care to keep your home rodent free and encourage the presence of king snakes which deter rattlesnakes. If you have a consistent rattlesnake visitor that is causing you worry, call a pest control company to remove the snake. Rattlesnakes are a beautiful predator and are an important facet of the ecosystem. With a little extra vigilance and preparation people can continue to coexist with this magnificent creature.
By Alyssa Harmon