Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Rattlesnake bites on the rise across California

Natalie McNear/Flickr Creative Commons

It was just this past May when we were reporting that California’s rattlesnake season started early this year, with a good chance of larger population numbers. Now we’re learning that there has been a steep increase of rattlesnake bites across the state over the spring, up almost 50 percent from the same time last year.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, 184 rattlesnake bites were reported to the state Poison Control System between April and June of this year, compared to 124 in the spring of 2011. On average, there are about 300 rattlesnake bites reported to California Poison Control annually.

Just last week in Mission Viejo, a 6-year-old boy suffered an especially toxic bite from a Mojave Green rattlesnake near Camp Pendleton, and is still recovering.

“Rattlesnakes are more like us than we think,” said Katie Colbert of the East Bay Regional Park District to the Independent Journal. “They like to go out in good weather. They get grumpy in hot weather. They want food, shelter, family and to avoid predators, but they will strike out if they feel threatened.”

The California Department of Fish and Game recommends taking precautions when hiking or partaking in any outdoor activities that could result in a rattlesnake encounter, like over-the-ankle hiking boots, avoiding tall grass and not grabbing anything that looks like a stick in lakes and rivers — rattlesnakes can swim and are easily mistaken for branches. Pets are particularly susceptible to rattlesnake bites, so be aware for your animals.

In case a bite does occur, the California Poison Control Center says to remain calm, wash it with soap and water, and get to the nearest medical facility as soon as possible. While all snakebites require medical attention, very few are fatal, accounting for less than one death annually in California. More people die from bee stings and dog attacks.