Rattlers biting at California’s ankles

Keep your hiking boots laced high and tight this summer, because California is crawling with snakes. The state is nearing a record number of snakebites already this season, and we’re only halfway through.

From April through June, 184 rattlesnake bites were reported to California’s Poison Control System, up 61 percent from last spring. During the normal April to October biting season, an average of about 300 rattlesnake bites are reported each year in California.

Melanie Piazza, director of animal care at WildCare in San Rafael, told the IJ:

“When it starts warming up, that’s when they come out. They are out there sunning and so are people. People are out hiking and more apt to get into rattlesnake territory.”

California isn’t the only state getting bit harder this year. Snakebites are up in at least five states, with experts blaming the mild winter.

Typical heavy winter rains produce a bumper crop of grain, which rodents feast on. In turn snakes, such as rattlers, feed on rodents such as gophers, voles, rats and mice.

While rattlesnakes prefer to eat small rodents like gophers, rats and mice, they will strike humans if threatened or deliberately provoked.

Naturalist Katie Colbert, who works for the East Bay Regional Park District, told the IJ:

“Rattlesnakes are more like us than we think. They like to go out in good weather. They get grumpy in hot weather. They want food, shelter, family and to avoid predators, but they will strike out if they feel threatened.”

WildCare warns that rattlesnakes tend to favor tall grass, rock and wood piles, making places throughout Marin and Novato ideal snake territories. It’s advised that Bay Area hikers only hike on well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants.

If you do get bit by a rattlesnake, seek immediate medical attention. While it will be very painful and probably ruin your day, know that on average, less than one rattlesnake bite in California is fatal each year. In fact, bee stings and dog attacks account for more deaths.