By Gary Kassan
As a realtor in Santa Clarita, I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of homeowners. It never ceases to amaze me about how frightened people are of snakes. I am a firm believer that people fear things they do not know about or understand. Snakes are such an important part of our ecosystem and yet because of fear, many people kill them without a second thought. They are one of nature’s many controls for rodents which reproduce in huge numbers. Snakes will mainly prey on mice and rats and need to heat their bodies up to digest their food. It is not uncommon to find snakes on asphalt, concrete or rocks sunning themselves while digesting their breakfast or dinner from the night before.
In Santa Clarita we have three more commonly seen snakes in our yards and on our hiking trails. The Gopher snake, King snake and the infamous Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. Being able to identify these snakes is extremely important. King Snakes are less common but are by far the easiest to identify by their beautiful brown/black rings around their yellowish bodies. Gopher snakes are most often seen and more commonly mistaken for a rattlesnake in that their coloring can be similar. Not all rattlesnakes have rattles. Baby rattlesnakes may not have their rattles yet so it is important to never reach for a snake until you are confident that you have identified it correctly. I use a general rule of thumb. If the head is bigger than the neck of the snake, it is most likely a rattlesnake. Non-venomous snake’s heads are more streamline, similar to your fingers while rattlesnake’s heads are more triangular.
There are things you can do to prevent snakes from coming into your yard like putting up thinly squared chicken wire around the bottom of your wrought iron fencing. Most importantly is to educate your children not to approach snakes. Their curiosity could have serious if not life threatening consequences. If you have dogs, speak with your veterinarian about vaccines for rattlesnake bites. This is highly recommended if you live with hills in your backyard or spend a lot of time on trails with your dog.
Lastly, snakes do not chase people. They merely defend themselves against an apparent threat. Snakes are just as afraid of you as you are of them. They want to avoid confrontation as much as you do. If you see a snake, it is best to freeze and then back away slowly. Rattlesnakes can usually strike about half of their body length. If you find yourself within striking distance, freeze, remain calm and very slowly back away. Snakes do not hear so if you are in an area where you think there might be snakes, walk with heavy steps or bang a stick on the ground as you walk. These vibrations will often notify a snake of your presence and to stay clear of you.
If you have a snake in your yard, you can call Animal Control at 661-487-1603. If they are not available, you can certainly call me. If I am available, I will come to your home and safely extract the snake and release it somewhere far from your home.
Gary Kassan is a realtor with Pinnacle Estate Properties, Inc but has had a lifelong passion for snakes and their preservation. If you need a snake removed, he can be reached at 818-438-5150 or [email protected].