Rattlesnakes in Los Angeles: What to do?
This past weekend at an Earth Day cleanup in the Valley, a few teenage boys came upon a rattlesnake while picking up trash. Unfortunately, the overzealous teens killed it, something you're not supposed to do (as the San Diego Zoo says, "these beautiful animals are important to the environment because they control rodent populations.")
"Of the 14 snakes found in the Santa Monica Mountains, only one, the southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis), is venomous," the National Park Service says on their reptile database for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (and for what it's worth, the sometimes different looking Northern Pacific Rattlesnake has made home in some parts of SoCal as well, Wikipedia writers say).
So what should you really do if you encounter one of these venomous reptiles? The San Diego Zoo gives the low-down on how both snakes defend themselves and how we should, too:
Snake self-defense We’re afraid of being bitten, but remember that snakes bite to defend themselves. If frightened, they will first try to escape or hide, so be sure to stay out of their way. Different species will react in different ways: some remain still, depending on their cryptic coloration for camouflage, while others just glide away silently. If this isn’t an option, then they will hiss, rattle their tail, and puff up their body to warn off an enemy. Most snakes will give a warning before they bite, although they may strike quickly if they are startled during shedding, mating, or giving birth. When out walking in heavy brush or rocky areas, watch where you step or put your hands!
Always be alert when out hiking and move away if you see a rattlesnake. Never try to kill a snake: many bites occur when attempting to kill a snake. Snakes should never be killed just because you encounter them on a walk. But if you are bitten by a venomous snake, you must go immediately to a hospital as quickly as possible. Never try "home remedies" (none are effective) and do not ignore the bite. While few snakebites are fatal to people, venomous snakebites should never be left untreated.