SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Rattlesnake season has officially arrived in Santa Barbara County and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is advising residents on what to do if they encounter one while hiking or near their home.
“Snakes are often misunderstood. They provide significant ecosystem benefits, such as rodent control, and are an important part of California’s unique biodiversity,” said CDFW’s Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe.
The department said most native snakes to the state are harmless, however, rattlesnakes are a venomous species and should be avoided at all times.
Officials state that rattlesnakes can be found on both the coast and desert areas of California. They are often attracted to areas around homes with heavy brush, under wood piles where rodents can hide and even well-manicured landscapes where they can bask in the sun.
They said rattlesnakes are not generally aggressive unless provoked or threatened and will likely retreat if given space.
“Snakes prefer to avoid people or pets and are not naturally aggressive. We encourage people to be rattlesnake safe, take time to learn about their local wildlife and take appropriate safety precautions when enjoying the outdoors,” said Monroe.
The department said rattlesnakes most often bite when they are handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing. Most bites tend to occur between the months of April and October, when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.
While they won't go out hunting for people, the snake's bite has been known to cause severe injury and even death.
However, the California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries, so fear of snake bites should never prevent someone from enjoying the outdoors.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife offers some resources on their webpage "Be Rattlesnake Safe" for those who live in or explore an environment where they have a chance of being bitten. Their advice includes never going outdoors barefoot, never hiking alone and always looking before stepping or placing your hand somewhere.
The department recommends visiting "Living with Rattlesnakes" on the California Herps website for more information.
You are also encouraged to report sightings of snakes with skin sores or strange behavior online here after the state's first case of Snake Fungal Disease was identified in 2019.