The return of warm weather to the Santa Clarita Valley also means the return of rattlesnakes to open spaces, parks and backyards.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, rattlesnakes that can be found in Southern California include the Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Speckled rattlesnake, Red Diamond rattlesnake, Southern Pacific, Great Basin rattlesnake and the Mojave rattlesnake.
The snakes eat rodents, other reptiles and insects, but sometimes they strike humans or dogs when they feel threatened or provoked. The California Poison Control reports that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites and one to two deaths each year.
With rattlesnake season in full swing, here are some tips from officials on how to stay safe when exploring the outdoors and enjoying the sunshine.
If residents encounter a snake near their home or in their backyard, they are encouraged to call LA County Animal Care and Control or the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
“If it’s something that’s going to be a problem they can call us or LA County Animal Control, who would be better equipped to handle those sorts of concerns when it comes to snakes,” Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Lt. Bryan Aguilera said. “Our expertise is to make sure it’s not a threat to anyone and make sure everyone is being respectful of the animal.”
Carrie Lujan, communications manager for the city of Santa Clarita, also encourages residents to take preventative measures against rattlesnakes.
“Know what snakes look like… rattlesnakes have a triangular head,” she said. “Never try to catch one unless you are absolutely sure they are not poisonous.”
Lujan also recommended residents keep their dog food inside to not attract rats, keep yards clean to limit the places snakes can hide and give snakes space when they do come across them.
Residents also have the option to install rattlesnake fencing in their yard. Years ago, the William S. Hart Union High School District installed the fencing at vulnerable locations to keep snakes off of high school campuses and athletic fields.
“We also have signs posted around the perimeter of where rattlesnakes might be coming through,” said Dave Caldwell, public information officer for the Hart District. “Coaches are very involved with this. If their field is near or up against an open area where snakes might come through then rattlesnake awareness is part of their program.”
Lt. Aguilera also recommended that residents remember the community of Santa Clarita is also the rattlesnakes’ home.
“We live in and that we live in an area surrounded beautiful mountains and beautiful landscape,” he said. “It’s about being respectful of the animal’s ability to be dangerous while also respecting that this is their home too.”
When rattlesnakes are encountered in city parks and open spaces, residents are encouraged to alert the park’s staff that is trained on how to handle snakes.
“When a snake is found in the park they are dispatched and use tongs to then put in a snake box and call a local snake rescue to pick it up and relocate it,” Lujan said. “If they are not comfortable with a snake, we ask them to keep visual contact on it and call someone who is comfortable handling the snake or to call LA County Animal Control.”
Jean Rhyne, state park interpreter at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, said the reserve has seen more rattlesnakes than usual on its grounds this year.
“We are seeing a lot of adult rattlesnakes,” Rhyne said. “Some years we see more gopher snakes then rattlesnakes, but this year we’re seeing very few gopher snakes and much more rattlesnakes.”
When rattlesnakes are found crossing the reserve’s trail or curled up next to the trail, the park will station a volunteer nearby so visitors are aware or will move the snake to a further part of the reserve using a snake box.
“Rattlesnakes aren’t aggressive unless they are provoked,” Rhyne said. “As long as people stay away and give it distance it won’t get defensive and it will go along on its way.”
However, the reserve is facing issues this year with visitors walking off of the trail or letting their dogs run loose outside the park.
“People are letting their dogs run around outside the park and it is very dangerous,” Rhyne said. “We do have dogs go out in the park outside the park and get bit every year.”
Man’s best friend can also take preventive measures to stay safe during the spring, summer and fall.
Residents can sign their dogs up for Rattlesnake Aversion Training classes where dogs are trained with low-level electronic collar stimulation. The dogs learn to relate the adverse feeling with the appearance of smell of the snake.
In Acton, 2nd Home Dog Boarding provides the venue for such classes through its partnership with Natural Solutions, a nationwide rattlesnake aversion training resource that uses real muzzled rattlesnakes.
“We do this every year with an organization called Natural Solutions… it’s pretty awesome and they bring out real rattlesnakes,” said Joe Altieri, owner of 2nd Home Dog Boarding. “We do [train] about 120 dogs per weekend.”
Residents can also protect their dogs by getting them a rattlesnake vaccine, which works to decrease the severity of a snake bite and increase the chance of survival for the dog.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_