Several recent rattlesnake encounters — including one during which a juvenile rattler bit a man — reinforce the need for Riverside County residents to remain alert to the presence of the venomous snakes, which remain active as long as it’s warm, officials said Thursday.
According to Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh, in the past four days, the agency has responded to an equal number of snake calls.
The worst involved an El Cerrito retiree who stumbled onto a young rattlesnake slithering through his den on Sunday, Welsh said.
The victim, who requested anonymity, told animal services that he initially believed the reptile was a king or gopher snake, neither of which is poisonous, and he attempted to scoop it up with an empty coffee can. The snake struck him between two fingers on his right hand.
“As soon as it bit me, I said to myself, `I wonder if that was a rattlesnake,”’ the victim said. “I told the wife, `You know what? I think that was a rattler for sure.”’
En route to Loma Linda University Medical Center, one of the Inland Empire’s anti-venom repositories, the man told officials that his lips went numb, along with his fingers and toes. He was barely able to walk when nursing staff transferred him from a gurney to a hospital bed.
“I had no idea how dangerous (the snake) was,” he said.
The victim recovered after a two-day stay. The baby — or “neonate” — rattler was found dead under the coffee can when the man returned home.
According to Welsh, animal control officers have been busy elsewhere, capturing several adult snakes on the western fringe of Riverside. He said another juvenile rattler was located in a pool skimmer in the city, where an officer fished him out.
Video of the captures is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_eUrBKQNsA&feature=youtu.be .
The Department of Animal Services’ resident reptile expert, Kim McWhorter, said rattlesnake season in Southern California is not by any means over.
“Some people may consider that we are in the end of snake season. Not so,” she said. “We’re still dealing with high temps, and many rattlesnakes may be producing litters at this stage of summer.”
The U.S. Forest Service advises anyone who comes into contact with a rattler “to back away at least six feet.”
According to an agency statement, “rattlesnakes do not always rattle as a warning prior to striking, so don’t assume that if you didn’t hear a rattle, that it wasn’t a rattlesnake.”
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