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Watch out for rattlesnakes

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Last week a man was bitten by a rattlesnake in Fremont.  He is not alone, rattlesnake bites have been reported in Concord and Livermore as well.  The snakes have been spotted at regional parks throughout the Bay Area.

“During the spring and summer months is when our rattlesnakes start to come out,” said Kevin Damstra, a supervising naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District. “They tend to like temperatures similar to humans, so as it gets comfortable for us to get out and start hiking, that’s when the rattlesnakes are starting to come out as well.”

“As a cold-blooded animal, if it’s too hot, they start moving into the shade.  They may be found under a log or in the grass.”  That was the case last week when a hiker on Fremont’s Mission Peak trail was bitten.  The man and his wife decided to stop for a rest, taking a seat on a large rock.  When the man dangled his hand down towards the bottom of the rock he was bitten by a rattlesnake that was taking advantage of the shade.  After calling 911, the man was airlifted to Washington Hospital where he was treated.

If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, “the big thing is to stay calm and to keep the part of the body that was bit below your heart and to get to a hospital as quickly as you can,” said Damstra.   If it’s not a rattlesnake “all you would need to do is wash it with soap and water and keep an eye on it for infection.”

Never try to suck out the poison. “It is extremely dangerous because the person that is sucking that out is potentially sucking blood out of your body and potentially sucking the venom out of your body and into theirs.”

Rattlesnake bites are actually not that common as they tend to avoid people when possible and they warn people when they’re near by.  “If you just hear the rattlesnake stop and determine where that snake is and then slowly back away from it and give it plenty of space.”   Rattlesnakes are not naturally aggressive animals and don’t view humans as food, so they would rather avoid the confrontation.  “Anytime that there is a rattlesnake bite or any snake that bites us, it’s generally because they feel threatened by us.”  Rattlesnakes can strike at a distance of about two thirds the length of their body.

Damstra says hikers can stay safe by being “aware of your surroundings [and] give wildlife space.”

Damstra cautions that there is something else people should be more worried about.  “The bigger thing to be concerned [with] than wildlife is dehydration, so just make sure you have enough water for you and your pets when you’re out.”

Trail maps are available at the base of each trail and have emergency numbers that hikers should call if they encounter a rattlesnake.  Those maps are also available at EastBayParks.org

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The student news site of Ohlone College
Watch out for rattlesnakes