Southern California environment news and trends

Rattlesnake bites on the rise across California

northern pacific rattlesnake

Photo by Natalie McNear via 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.”

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Rattlesnake season arrives early in the Southland

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David McNew/Getty Images

Now that spring is in full swing and the unofficial arrival of summer is upon us with Memorial Day weekend, outdoor enthusiasts aren’t the only ones getting an early start on sun-kissed activities. According to the L.A. Zoo and California Poison Control System, the local rattlesnake population is coming out of hibernation early this year, with the potential of a larger snake infestation than usual.

“Fatality, loss of limb, some really severe injuries, medical procedures are necessary to save limbs and life,” said Fish & Game biologist Kevin Brennan about the grisly results of a rattlesnake bite to CBS Local. Officials estimate that California sees one or two fatal rattlesnake bites annually.

Hikers and anyone spending extended time roaming through brush areas are encouraged to wear long pants that cover shoe tops, and to bypass areas where the ground is not fully visible. With a “bumper crop” of baby rattlesnake births expected this season, don’t think the little ones are any less dangerous. Their venom is just as poisonous.

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