Before coronavirus struck, Dr. William Hayes was to talk this month in Temecula CA on “All about Rattlesnakes and Local Snakes.” Well, that can’t happen. Luckily, the Loma Linda biology professor, researcher and important spokesperson for snakes and other wild things gave a similar talk in February in Redlands. Here’s a recap about rattlesnakes, who are entering their mating season.
First, what rattlesnakes do we have locally (Southern California)?
Locally in Southern California, we have six rattlesnake species. (most areas have the first three while the other three are in desert areas)
- Southern Pacific Rattlesnake: blackish or grayish, with dark tail (babies have yellow tail), very active, found in diverse habitats, travels widely in spring and fall – they mate in Spring and also Aug-Oct
- Red Diamond Rattlesnake: generally reddish, and more docile (but not always), mates in Spring
- Speckled Rattlesnake: prefers rocky habitats, their diffuse bands blend into their surroundings and match the local rocks
- Western Diamond-backed: large, found in the desert, black & white striped tail
- Mohave Rattlesnake: found in creosote habitats in the Mojave Desert. Despite their reputation, Hayes says “they are no more dangerous than any other (rattlesnake)”
Sidewinder: small, pale, most common in windblown sand
All about Rattlesnake Venom – and Myths Debunked
- After a rattlesnake injects venom, for example into a rodent, the rodent often goes off and dies, and the snake follows the chemical trail left by the rodent.
- Small rattlesnakes eat lizards, while older ones add rodents to their menu, with the venom changing as they get older. “The snake makes a decision (called metering) how much venom to inject. In fact, spiders, scorpions, and ants control their venom too,” says Hayes.
- Wear long jeans! — “This helps a lot!” says Hayes.
- Some animals have immunity to rattlesnake venom – including possums and King Snakes
- Babies are NOT more dangerous! This is a common myth.
- Also, rattlesnake venom has NOT gotten more toxic. “There is no evidence of this,” says Hayes.
Rattlesnake venom has been used in important medical products such as Integrillin, Aggrastat and Capoten.
How common/deadly are rattlesnake bites in humans?
How deadly? Of the 3000 to 8000 rattlesnake bites annually in the US, 5-10 deaths result
Worst culprit? Most encounters are with the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes
and Worst culprit? In Southern California, 80% of rattlesnake bites occur in men, 45% involve alcohol or drugs, and 20% involved them interacting with the snake (surprised?)
If a bite happens? “Take off jewelry and get to a hospital ASAP, anti-venom is needed ASAP,” says Hayes.
Tips on avoiding bites and relocating snakes
- Eliminate snake food (which means reduce rodents) and hiding areas.
- Move 2 steps back! Remember that a rattlesnake can strike five feet at most – so people need to move away! Hayes said to memorize “Move 2 steps back” to avoid bites.
- Relocating: Hayes strongly recommends relocation to killing snakes. If you feel comfortable and must remove them, Hayes recommends using a long shovel to sleep the snake into a trash can and then relocate them within 2 miles, preferably 1 to give them a better chance of survival. For more on relocating see Relocating rattlesnakes and Even more on relocating rattlesnakes and see below.
- Dogs and Rattlesnakes: Hayes highly recommends Avoidance Training for dogs. Check online for local classes. Dog vaccines cost $30-50 each and last 6 months. BUT, dog vaccines are likely effective only for the Western Diamond-backed and Red Diamond Rattlesnakes due to venom variation, and the vaccine being comprised only of the Western Diamond-backed.
Other Common Local Snakes:
For more info:
Questions? In the Temecula/Fallbrook area, you can contact DeLuz resident Joann Mitchum (who had arranged Dr. Hayes’ talk) and has relocated many rattlesnakes: Home -951-695-5666, cell-619-980-3305 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Dog Training – Protecting my dog against rattlesnakes
CaliforniaHerps.com – photos of California snakes
More about Dr. William Hayes
Video of Dr. Hayes with some live snakes, etc, including a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake