Now is the time of year when snake sightings become more common at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC).
California has a variety of snakes, most of which are harmless. The exceptions are California’s only native venomous snakes — rattlesnakes. At NBVC Point Mugu there is only one native species, the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.
Rattlesnakes can cause serious injury to humans — on rare occasions even death. Generally not aggressive, rattlesnakes strike when threatened or deliberately provoked, but given room they will retreat.
Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing.
Approximately 8,000 people annually are treated for poisonous snake bites in the United States. However, the California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for only about 800 of those bites each year with about one to two deaths.
See if you’ve heard any of these common myths about rattlesnakes:
Myth: Baby rattlesnakes are more deadly than the adults.
Fact: Baby rattlesnake venom has the same concentration and formulation as the adults. The truth is it doesn’t take very much venom to create a full reaction in an adult human. So even the smaller amount injected by a young rattlesnake will cause a full reaction, giving people the impression they must be more deadly.
Myth: Rattlesnakes can jump.
Fact: Rattlesnakes, when fully coiled like a hose, can strike half the totally length of their body. For example, a striking distance for a 3-foot rattlesnake is 1½ feet away. The lower half of their body will propel the upper half forward in a full strike. However, the lower half of their body never leaves the ground.
Myth: Rattlesnakes always rattle before they strike.
Fact: When given enough time, a rattlesnake will warn anything around it that it feels is a direct threat by rattling its tail. It sounds more like a buzzer than a rattle. Mostly they hide and hope whatever is coming near them continues to walk by without noticing them. If surprised, they will strike without rattling their tail.
Rattlesnakes are nocturnal hunters. Sometimes they will come out during the day to warm themselves, especially in the mornings.
Take the following precautions:
Step on logs and rocks, never over them, as a snake could be coiled up behind the barrier where you cannot see it. Also be careful when stepping over the doorstep. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
Keep an eye out when walking through dense brush, and watch where you put your feet. If you are out in the brush wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants.
Discourage snakes by removing piles of boards or rocks around buildings. But use caution when removing those piles as there may already be a snake there.
If you see a rattlesnake in occupied areas of NBVC, such as housing or in administrative offices, call 911. Dispatchers will alert the proper responder to handle the snake. If you are out in the natural areas and see a rattlesnake, leave it alone and go a safe distance around it.