Spring Brings Warm Temps, Scaly Critters

Stock image via PhotoSpin
April 23, 2013 | 4:24pm

Temperatures are on the rise. Colorful wildflowers are putting on a show along our freeways. And more furry and scaly creatures have begun appearing in our yards and parks.

You may have even spotted a rabbit or found some shedded snake skin.

All sorts of wildlife emerge in the spring, and March and April mark the start of rattlesnake season in San Diego County. Recent news reports have described human rattlesnake bites. As the reptiles come out of hibernation, it’s not uncommon to spot them locally, though bites are rare. Most sightings happen between now and October.

The County’s Department of Animal Services has removed dozens of rattlesnakes from residents’ homes and yards so far this month, said Dawn Danielson, Animal Services Director.

The snakes are most likely venturing out in search of food and to soak up the sun, said Mary Ramsey, Supervising Park Ranger for the County’s Department of Parks & Recreation. She oversees the Dos Picos County and Collier County parks, which are both in Ramona.

Ramsey said she warns visitors to be aware of their surroundings, especially of where they’re placing their hands or feet or where they sit.

Typically, Ramsey said the snakes are either sunning themselves or on their way somewhere.

“People think they’re going to chase you—that isn’t so,” she said. “They don’t want anything to do with us.”

If you encounter one of the five varieties of rattlesnakes found in the county, give it space. Calmly back away from it, leave it alone and let it go on its way, Ramsey said.

If bitten, call 911 and remove any constricting clothing or accessories like rings or watchbands.

To avoid encounters with rattlesnakes, the Department of Animal Services suggests these steps:

  • Wear sturdy hiking boots with ankle support so that your feet are protected.
  • Stay on paths and trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and brush where snakes may hide.
  • Keep your dog on leash while hiking and be aware of what your dog is doing at all times.
  • Make sure you can see where you are reaching and that you can see ahead of you. Look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or wood.
  • Consider bringing a walking stick while hiking. If you encounter a snake it may strike the stick instead of you or your pet.
  • Give rattlesnakes the right-of-way.
  • If you live in an area where rattlesnakes have been found, check your yard before letting your pets and children out to play.

The County encourages people to remove potential food or shelter for rattlesnakes from their properties. Make sure you don’t have mice or rats and get rid of wood piles or garbage heaps that can make excellent hiding spots for snakes.

Residents of the County’s unincorporated areas or the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee or Solana Beach can call Animal Services for help removing rattlesnakes if they pose an immediate threat. The number is 619-236-2341.

To learn more about snakes and other local wildlife, Dos Picos County Park offers an interpretive program - called Snakes n’ Skins - each Saturday at 11 a.m. Snake and animal skins will be on display and available for touching. The park is located at 17953 Dos Picos Park Rd. in Ramona. The program is free and a $3 day use fee is required to enter the park. For more information, visit sdparks.org.

This rattlesnake was spotted by a hiker along a trail in the County's Del Dios Highlands Preserve in early April.
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