Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rattlesnake Alerts In Summer In California

Red Diamond Rattlesnake
©Gary Nafis
With the warmer weather here, and if you live in the southern part of California, and especially the inland valleys, this time of year brings with the warm weather, snakes of many varieties.  While there are many varieties, and color patterns, most are harmless to humans.  These snakes were hidden during the cooler months, buried underground.  They are reptiles of course, and therefore are cold-blooded and must depend on the temperature of their surrounding to regulate their body temperature.  Since warmer weather is here, they tend to hunt more early in the day, once it has warmed up, or at night until it gets too cool for them to function efficiently, at which time they will once again head underground, in order not to overheat in the hottest part of the day, or in chilly early morning hours, when they have cooled more than is safe for them.

The photo above is exactly what a friend found basking on her concrete driveway last evening.  She would not have even seen it had she not happened to be using a flashlight.  The one she saw was only about two feet long, and had no rattles that she could discern, but she did see that it had a wide head and a narrow neck.  She also saw the dark bands near the end of the tail.  Her better judgement prevailed, and she went back inside her home, since her two dogs were already inside for the night, and she had nothing to help her dispatch the snake.  This particular snake must have been young, as this particular variety of Rattler does not have rattles until it gets older, and of course larger.
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (tan)  

This variety of Rattlesnake can be from 2 to 4 1/2 feet long when it is mature, and like all Rattlers, is dangerous, and can kill your cat or dog, and possibly even humans, unless they get medical attention as soon as possible.  Of course much depends on where on their body a person is bitten.
There are many varieties of Rattlesnakes, with not all looking alike.  California has several varieties of Rattlesnakes, with the      ranging from tan to brown or even black being their primary color.  These are all still the same variety, and are all Rattlesnakes that are native to
southern California.

Speckled Southwestern Pacific Rattlesnake 

Many Rattlesnakes in the same area can come in different colors.  The Southern Pacific Rattler can be tan, brown, or even black as it's primary color.

The Speckled Pacific Rattlesnake can also be any one of several colors, but with the speckled pattern.

It is important to remember a few things about meeting up with snakes:

* There are many snakes that at first glance may appear to be a rattler, when they may actually be a Gopher snake, that can be small, or really large, even 5 feet long, and large in circumference, too.  That snake is basically one that eats rodents, rabbits, if if your pet dog is small enough, it may just eat it.  Gopher snakes are not poisonous though, so even if you are bitten, it isn't poisonous.

* King Snakes are also native to many parts of the country, and they also come in many colors, and patterns.  Different part of the country have different pattern and colors.  They are still King snakes, and are not poisonous, but they, too eat rodents, small rabbits, and when large enough, they even kill and eat Rattlesnakes.  This snake is not affected by the venom of a Rattlesnake.
Night Rattler
©Gary Nafis

Some varieties of King snakes are black with blue speckles, while other have stripes running the length of their bodies.  The stripes may be yellow, blue, or red or green.  They are all King snakes, and are helpful in eliminating rodents, as well as Rattlesnakes.

Banded California King Snake
©2011 PK Hawk
*  If you see snake, it is best to leave it alone, as the snake would rather escape that have to fight for it's life.  As with most animals, a snake will bite if pushed, and if it feels threatened.  If you see a Rattlesnake in or near your property, it's best to call your fire department, or some other professional who is equipped and knowledgeable in handling snakes.  It is especially important if the snake happens to be a poisonous one, such as a Rattler.

* Do not encourage your dog to attack the snake, as if the snake is poisonous, your dog could either die if bitten, or  you could  end up with a very large bill from your Veterinarian.  Snake antivenin is very expensive, and if nor administered in time, you could still lose your beloved pet.

Once, several years ago, someone I know, who is a certified search and rescue professional was in the mountains of Colorado on a training exercise with law enforcement, with their search and rescue Bloodhounds.  One of the Bloodhounds surprised a Rattlesnake, and was bitten on the toe of her front paw.  They were close to the vehicles, and were able to transport the dog to an emergency Veterinarian who was only several miles away.  The dog was given the antivenin and survived.  But, it costs several hundred dollars, for one shot.  Without the antivenin the dog could well have died, and there would be one less well trained, and well loved Bloodhound.

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