Environment & Science

Warmer weather brings rattlesnake season in Southern California

A southern Pacific rattlesnake tastes the air in Santa Ynez Canyon in Topanga State Park on May 21, 2008.
A southern Pacific rattlesnake tastes the air in Santa Ynez Canyon in Topanga State Park on May 21, 2008.
David McNew/Getty Images

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When the temperature goes up, the rattlesnakes come out in Southern California. The snakes like the heat as much as we do, so there’s a good chance you might see one if you’re out and about in local wilderness areas.

Caspers Wilderness Park Supervising Ranger Jackeline Velasquez says they haven’t seen a whole lot of rattlesnakes in the San Juan Capistrano park — at least not yet.

"I remember about a few years ago I would go out and on the trails and see, you know, a few every day," Velasquez says. "But I’ve been out on the trails and spoke with my rangers and they haven’t seen that many yet, so I think it’s going to be maybe a little later season when we start seeing all our snakes."

But Velasquez expects that there could be a lot of snakes this season because we had such a rainy winter.

"We have a lot more green habitat out there. Wildflowers are in full bloom and everything just looks absolutely beautiful," Velasquez says. "And we need all the rain we can get, but, of course, that means more rodents and more squirrels and more gophers and all the little small critters that we have here in our wilderness park."

And that means more food for rattlesnakes to eat, which can support a larger rattlesnake population.

Rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves on trails and roads during the day. They start moving around in early evening, when they hunt for food.

Velasquez says if you stay on the trails, you’ll at least be able to see the snakes before you get too close.

If one blocks your trail, Velasquez suggests standing several feet away – out of striking distance – and stomping your feet. Most of the time, the vibrations will get the snake to move off the trail and out of your way.

If a rattlesnake bites you, stay calm and still, so the venom does not travel through your body as much. Don't try to suck out the venom. Instead, wash the bite area and call for medical help.