Local wildlife officials reminded the public Tuesday that rattlesnake season is upon us, presenting potential danger for hikers.
The most common snakes hikers are likely to encounter in the Santa Monica Mountains are the Southern Pacific rattlesnake, gopher snake and the California striped racer. Of those three, the Southern Pacific rattlesnake is the only one that is venomous.
“Rattlesnakes aren’t aggressive toward humans unless threatened or frightened,” according to a post on the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area’s Facebook page. “They eat mice and rodents and are wary of larger animals. If they sense you, they will usually try to get away. If you see one on your hike, give them space to safely escape on their own.”
Rattlesnakes prefer the comfort of an open trail to warm themselves since they can’t regulate their temperature.
People hiking with pets are advised to keep them on a leash so they won’t try to investigate a rattlesnake.
“If the snake doesn’t move off the trail, wait it out or turn back,” officials warned. “Don’t step over it, don’t try and go around it, and DON’T attempt to move the snake off the trail with a stick or pole! That may agitate it, and that’s how most people get bitten.”
Anyone who does suffer a snake bite should remain calm but get medical attention immediately. Exertion spreads the venom faster, so bite victims should keep their heart rates as low as possible. They should also remove any jewelry that may restrict swelling, and should not apply ice or a tourniquet or cut the bite to get the venom out.
If a pet is bitten, they should be taken to a vet immediately.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a unit of the National Park Service, and one of the largest urban national parks in the world.