Living in Southern California means sunny skies, warm temperatures, and lots of open
space. Such a climate also means living with rattlesnakes. While the idea of being
anywhere near a snake strikes fear in many people, it is possible to co-exist. The
more you know about snakes, the better prepared you will be for any potential encounters.
All sorts of wildlife emerge in the spring, and March and April mark the start of rattlesnake season in San Diego County. Recent reports have described increased rattlesnake sightings in San Marcos. As the reptiles come out of hibernation, it’s not uncommon to spot them locally, though bites are rare. Most sightings happen between Spring and Fall.
The best thing to do is leave it alone! Do not attempt to touch it or pick it up. Look around the area to make sure there are no other snakes and calmly walk away. If you are in an open or wilderness area, let the snake be. That is its home. If the snake is on campus, or when in doubt, you can call the University Police Department (911 or (760) 750-4567) to come and remove the snake for you.
Hands, feet, and ankles are the most common sites for rattlesnake bites. Using some common sense rules can prevent most snake bites.
• Never go barefooted or wear sandals when walking in rough or unpaved terrain.
• Always stay on paths. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where there may be snakes.
• Always check carefully around stumps or logs before sitting.
• When climbing, always look before putting your hands in a new location. Snakes can climb walls, trees and rocks and are frequently found at high altitudes.
• Be careful when stepping over doorsteps as snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
• Respect snakes and leave them alone. Curious people who pick up snakes are frequently bitten.
• Always give snakes the right of way!
For more information about rattlesnakes in California, visit wildlife.gov.
Nationwide, there are over 800 cases of rattlesnake bites reported annually to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Of these reported bites, only one to two cases per year result in death of the patient. Although complications such as possible blood clotting problems, allergic reactions to treatment, infection and shock may develop, the majority of rattlesnake bites are successfully treated with as little as two to three days of hospitalization.
Information provided by the City of San Marcos, Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District, California Poison Control System, and San Diego Zoo websites.