I know I sent out a rattlesnake season reminder to the district while ago, but we are getting a lot of reports of rattlesnake sightings. So this is another reminder. Folks working out in the Coxey area have seen a number of them and none have rattled. One was eye level in a live oak tree! One of our neighbors had a 3' rattlesnake in her yard last week.Why are we seeing so many rattlesnakes? We don't really know if there are more rattlesnakes this year or just more reports (those can be two different things). It is possible that we actually have a bump in the snake population because we had such a mild winter so winter-mortality may have been lower than normal. But it may be that we're just having more encounters. With the third year of a drought, seed production is probably lower than normal which means that the rodent population may be low and snakes may have to move around more to find adequate food. It's difficult to know exactly what's going on....but we do know that there are rattlesnakes where we work and that there are a lot of reports this year.* Keep your eyes open. Don't expect them to rattle - the majority of the time, in my experience, they don't.* Please keep up your situational awareness and expect them where you least expect them.* Pay attention to what the birds or ground squirrels are doing. If they're making a loud ruckus about something, it may be because they are trying to alert their buddies that there's a snake (or hawk) in the area.* Step on top of logs and rocks, look on the other side...then step down.On the Mountaintop District, our rattlesnake is the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake and it comes in a number of color variations. Young are lighter with more visible patterns. Older ones are darker (almost black and look like a Jeffrey pine branch in color and texture). But color varies by area and habitat. On the edges of our district in the desert influence area, we can get speckled and red diamond rattlesnakes. Mojave Greens are pretty unlikely on most of the MTRD - their maximum elevation is about 5000', but they are generally lower than that.* They can climb, especially in shrubs and trees with a lot of low branches.* They can swim.* They don't have ear openings so they don't hear you the same way that you and I hear, but they do feel vibrations through their jaws and the inner ear.* They like to spend the day under shrubs, rocks, and logs - so try to avoid walking close to those features as much as possible.* If you're going to be working in a very shrubby area where you can't see the ground, wear snake gaiters.* Don't mess with them. They're supposed to be here. There's nothing in your job description that requires you to pick up one or harass them.
From: San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District
John Stewart Managing Editor - 4x4Voice - 4x4Wire - MUIRNet.net Natural Resources Consultant - California Four Wheel Drive Association - http://www.cal4wheel.com Board of Directors - BlueRibbon Coalition http://www.sharetrails.org