Visitors to Mt. Tamalpais should keep an eye out for rattlesnakes particularly during the spring when they are mating. This year may bring out more rattlesnakes than usual because their prey is plentiful owing to the wet winter.
Rattlesnakes are the only native venomous snake in California and play an important role in the ecosystem by eating small rodents and lizards and providing food for hawks, eagles and King snakes.
Generally, the most serious effect of a rattlesnake bite to an adult is local tissue damage. Children, because they are smaller, are in more danger if they are bitten.
Rattlesnakes bite people or dogs in self-defense, so the best way to avoid being bitten is to leave them alone. If you encounter one, keep a safe distance; if you can’t go around them, take an alternate route or go back. Don’t attempt to move or pick up a snake of any kind. Rattlesnakes could be missing their characteristic rattles, so don’t assume it’s another, non-venomous snake. And size doesn’t matter—even baby rattlesnakes are venomous.
- Stay on well-used trails and avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
- Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see.
- Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times.
- Carry a cell phone and hike or bike with a companion when possible.
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, stay calm and seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
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