Hiking Season Rattlesnake Awareness and Safety

Rattlesnakes have large, flat, oval shaped heads.

One of the best ways to spend time with your dog while also getting some much-needed exercise is hiking in and around the city. Hiking season is popular with most San Diego residents, including those who get around on four legs. Unfortunately, there are risks that come with hiking. One of the most prevalent, especially in spring, is the presence of rattlesnakes.

Detecting Rattlesnakes in San Diego

Rattlesnakes tend to live in areas that are rife with food sources. Any spots that have heavy amounts of brush hide mice, voles, and other rodents that offer meals to rattlesnakes. During the heat of the day, rattlesnakes are apt to find shelter in holes, crevasses, empty logs and the shade of rocks. Stick to well-traveled paths, keep dogs from exploring in the grass and do not lift any logs or large stones unless necessary to avoid the dangers of venomous snake bites.

Avoid listening to headphones, instead, play from your device’s speaker. However,  you shouldn’t rely on your sense of hearing alone. A rattlesnake will only rattle when it believes it is in danger. If you are hearing the rattle of the snake’s tail, you are likely already within striking distance.

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How to Manage Rattlesnake Encounters

Should you or your dog happen upon rattlesnakes in San Diego, there is no reason to panic. Rattlesnakes are just as afraid of you as you are of them, if not more. The first step is to secure your dog’s leash. If your dog is well trained, have he or she sit while you assess your surroundings. It should only take a moment for you to decide if you can move around the snake or if you need to back away and return the way you came.

You should not attempt to move the snake in any way. Some will use a large stick to guide the snake or even lift it to a safer spot. This is a good way to anger the snake, which may cause it to lash out. The best thing you can do when you see a snake is to leave it alone.

Unlike harmless gopher snakes, whose head is the same width as their body, rattlesnakes have large, flat, oval-shaped heads.

Emergency Aid for Rattlesnake Bites

A curious dog may happen upon a rattlesnake before you have the chance to act. If your dog is bitten, you must remember to remain calm. Panicking will not help you or your best friend. Immediately remove your dog from the hiking path and seek emergency veterinary assistance.

Not able to reach a veterinarian right away? There are some things you can do before you find medical help. Give your dog an antihistamine. It is a good idea that you carry drugs like Benadryl with you during hiking season just in case your dog is bitten. Next, clean the wound very well. An infection from the bite can be even more dangerous than the venom itself. Your dog will still need to see a veterinarian, but these steps can help to ensure that he or she will be comfortable in the meantime.

Rattlesnakes can be both frightening and dangerous. However, they are also an important part of the ecology of southern California. While it is smart to be wary of rattlesnakes, it is also vital not to harm them or their young in any way. In most cases, you and your pet will be safe from rattlesnakes as long as you observe the appropriate precautions.

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