Animals

April Showers Bring More than Flowers

Each spring, wildflowers add vibrancy and color to San Diego County’s hillsides and canyons.

The burst of plant life also draws hungry critters from up and down the food chain. Flower seeds become meals for rabbits and rodents, and rattlesnakes, in turn, eat the furry, four-legged creatures. 

In short, March and April bring a lot more than just showers and flowers. The months also mark the start of rattlesnake season. Recent news reports have highlighted human rattlesnake bites in the region.  While such encounters are rare, sightings are not as the reptiles awaken from hibernation.

So far this month, the County’s Department of Animal Services has removed 72 rattlesnakes from residents’ homes and yards, up from none in December 2011, said Lt. Dan DeSousa. Of the 482 removals by Animal Services last year, nearly all of them came between March and October.

If you see a rattlesnake, it’s most likely hunting or out sunning itself, said Cailín Hunsaker, a District Park Manager with the County Department of Parks & Recreation. When it spots you, its first instinct is to retreat.

“Even on the hot days, they’ll disappear if they feel footsteps,” Hunsaker said. “They’re generally not interested in seeking out interaction with people.”

Still, if you encounter one of the five varieties of rattlesnakes found in the county, calmly back away from it. 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 a walking stick when 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.

DeSousa said the County also encourages people to rid their properties of potential food and shelter for rattlesnakes. Make sure you don’t have mice or rats and do away with wood piles and 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 and 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 interpretative program called Snakes n’ Skins each Saturday from 11-11:30 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.

Below: Watch a CTN.org video on rattlesnake awareness