Southern California breaking news and trends

Man attacked by Gila monster sentenced for having a Gila monster


Photo by Joachim S. Müller via Flickr Creative Commons

Derek Nathaneal Castaneda was rendered unconscious and taken to the hospital in January after being attacked by the venomous, 18-inch Gila monster he kept illegally as a pet in his San Pedro home.

On Tuesday, the 34-year-old man was sentenced to three years of probation, a series of animal neglect classes, a year of AA meetings and fined $1,000 for possessing the potentially lethal reptile and a pair of rattlesnakes.

According to the City Attorney's Office, Castaneda -- on probation at the time of the attack for an earlier DUI case -- was convicted of unlawful possession of a native California reptile species, and the unlawful keeping of a wild reptile without a permit.

The Gila monster was taken to the Orange County Zoo. The snakes, illegal to possess without a permit, were reportedly euthanized.


Serpent sightings: Rattlesnakes out of hibernation in SoCal

northern pacific rattlesnake

Photo by Natalie McNear via Flickr Creative Commons

If you can't see the ground, you can't see serpents. Keep this piece of advice in your long pants.

While it's unusual to see so many fangs so early in the year, unseasonably warm temperatures have signaled the end of hibernation for a number of slitherers, resulting in an increase in rattlesnake sightings across Southern California, say experts.

Canyon dwellers are advised to wear pants long that enough to cover the tops of shoes, and to avoid walking in tall brush or grass, or anywhere else you can't see below. Additionally, hikers are urged not trek alone and to bring a phone (even though cell service varies on trails), in case of an emergency, notes KTLA.

During last year's snake awakening, we spoke with park ranger Jackeline Velasquez who explained that rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves on trails and roads during the day, and then move around in early evening as they prepare to hunt.