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Do’s And Don’ts When San Diego’s Rattlesnake Season Arrives Early

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Nathan Rupert / Flickr

A Western Diamondback rattlesnake coils around a cactus.

Rattlesnakes are slithering out of their dens a little earlier this year.

The number of rattlesnake calls to the San Diego County Department of Animal Services has more than tripled compared to the same period last year.

KPBS Morning Edition's Deb Welsh spoke to DAS Deputy Director Daniel DeSousa about the increased sightings.

Welsh: We really haven't had much of a winter to speak of. Would you say that, coupled with our recent warm temperatures, is enticing rattlesnakes out of hibernation earlier than usual?

DeSousa: The lack of a winter, that plays a very key role in the fact that we're seeing more and more rattlesnakes coming out earlier.

If a rattlesnake doesn't rattle is there another way in which to tell if it is, indeed, a rattlesnake?

The easiest way to identify a rattlesnake is by the shape of its head. It's a very triangular shaped head, where as a non-venomous snake will have a head the same size as its body.

Let's say you spot a rattlesnake. Do you run like there's no tomorrow or do you take a deep breath and back off slowly?

I would say just exactly that. Take a deep breath and step away slowly. Don't make any quick movement. Any quick movement will cause the snake most likely to strike out just out of fear.

Now, some areas are, obviously, more prone to rattlesnakes than others. But even if you're not in one of those areas there are still things you can do on your own property to discourage rattlers from feeling, let's say, too at home?

Very much. You need to make your property as unattractive to a rattlesnake as possible. What we usually recommend is don't have debris piles or wood piles in your yard. That is a perfect place for a rattlesnake to hide out. That is also a place that will attract mice and rats, which is what the rattlesnakes are coming onto the property to eat.

If you're bitten by a rattlesnake, and we should mention those bites can be deadly, what should you do?

The first thing you need to do, obviously, is to get to the hospital as soon as possible. And try to stay as calm as possible.

DeSousa also said it's imperative to keep your pets safe from rattlesnakes. In other words, if you're walking your dog, keep it on a leash. That way, should you encounter a rattlesnake, you can quickly pull your pet away from it.

Finally, DeSousa offer this reminder: wear appropriate clothing while walking or hiking. That includes sturdy, closed-toe shoes.

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