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Increased rattlesnake danger this year due to higher water levels, rangers warn

Experts warn of a more active California rattlesnake season following a wet winter

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As the weather gets warmer, more people are staying active on the trails, but park rangers warn of a busier rattlesnake season following a wet winter.

“As the water levels rise, there's more rattlesnakes,” said Sgt. Eric Dales, with the California State Department of Parks and Recreation.

More mice and other food sources are out for reptiles to hunt. Also, thick vegetation has grown for them to hide near the places athletes run or bike.

“We advise the public and the kids don't put your hand in a hole that you don't know,” Dales said. “We do have rattlesnake bites out here all the time.”

Those who frequent bike trails along the American River have seen more snakes slithering around pedestrian areas.

“Somebody showed me a picture yesterday of one and ran across the road,” David Lucas said.

Visitors are urged to stay on the bike path and not to walk through grassy or wooded areas, where snakes might be idling.

“If you're on a trail like this is no big deal,” Lucas said. “I mean you may see one cross and it's like okay, let it go whatever but if you're down in the dirt off-road, off-pavement then just be aware because you get bitten the ankle or something so yeah, it's just being aware.”

Rangers also tell runners to keep their eyes and ears open, as rattlesnakes typically rattle as a warning before lunging. When possible, people should travel in pairs.

“Don't go alone. Make sure you tell — if you do go alone — tell somebody where you're going if you're out hiking, watch for ticks, watch for poison oak and then the rattlesnakes,” Dales said.

What to do if you see a rattlesnake

  • Stand still and slowly back away
  • Do not startle the reptile and keep a safe distance
  • Snakes can lunge one foot per second

What to do if you are bitten

  • Stay calm and do not panic to slow the venom’s rate of speed
  • Seek medical treatment to prevent nerve damage
  • Venom can be more dangerous for dogs. If a dog is bitten, seek the attention of a veterinarian

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