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Snake, Rattle, and Back Off
Julie Maxey-Allis0n | 10th Street

Del Mar’s Snake Wall.
Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

On land of legged people, animals and insects, it must be tough to get around on the ground using only muscles and scales for mobility. But, that’s a snake’s life. Skilled at swiftly slithering about, snakes can coil up to get warm, to protect their heads—or to strike out in self defense.

Because of our mellow climate, snakes do not go into a deep hibernation and are active all year. While most snakes are harmless, rattlesnakes, the only venomous snakes in San Diego County, live locally in our canyon, sometimes camping out in our backyards, and can be a threat to people and pets. Scary snakes: the Speckled South Pacific with multiple colors but no diamond marking, banded Reds that grow up to six feet long, and the South Pacific Diamond, the most common. Young rattlesnakes are no more dangerous than older ones reports a Los Angeles County Natural History Museum Herpetologist. But they are smaller and better hidden.

Snakes are shy. Rattlesnakes aren’t out to waste their venom biting people. They want to sink their fangs into prey they can swallow, and rats are a favorite. Because snakes catch and consume copious quanties of rats they are key to keeping our rodent population in check and therefore reduce the risk from the hantaviruses that rodents carry.

An early attempt to keep snakes off properties, Del Mar’s 6 foot tall, 9 inch thick concrete Snake wall, built in the 1920s, that winds around the Crest hillside may or may not live up to its name and keep snakes out. In lieu of a wall, a simpler strategy is to keep rats out of your yard so snakes don’t come looking for them. Prune overgrown brush, get rid of trash piles and don’t leave pet food outdoors.
Take care when hiking or taking a walk where snakes might lurk, around rocks and logs or piles of leaves or trash. Wear boots and long pants. Keep your pets leashed. Look about and definitely listen. If you do happen to tread too close, the scared rattlesnake will indeed rattle a warning to alert you, as a courtesy, to back off. Do so. Leave the snake alone. A rattlesnake’s strike is its last defense and the majority of bites happen on hands of people who try to pick them up.

Best, don’t get bitten. Bites are nasty and painful, but rarely fatal according to the California Poison Control System. If you are a victim of a rattlesnake bite, go to an emergency room for immediate medical attention. Leave treatment to the experts. Tourniquets are discouraged as is using ice or a cold compress or cutting and trying to suck out venom or using a snake bite kit.

If/when you spot a rattlesnake close to home, call 911 and your call will be directed to the proper responder, including the Del Mar Fire Department.



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