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Rattlesnakes are active in California as the weather warms. Here’s how to avoid being bitten

As the weather warms up, people aren’t the only ones eager to enjoy the sun.

Rattlesnakes thrive in the spring and summer.

According to the US Forest Service, snakes are most active from April to October, which only increases the chances of encountering one on a hike, hike, or camping trip.

Here are some tips to help you stay prepared during your outdoor adventures:

A Rattlesnake Dinosaur National Monument / National Park Service

A Rattlesnake Dinosaur National Monument / National Park Service

How to identify rattlesnakes

There are seven different species of rattlesnakes found throughout California.

The most common is the western rattlesnake, which can be found from sea level to an elevation of 7,000 feet, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Rattlesnakes can be recognized by the distinctive sound their rattles make.

However, the snakes may lose their rattles or simply decide not to use them.

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In that case, you can recognize them by their gray or light brown exterior and triangular heads. They usually range between 7 and 4 feet tall and can easily camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings.

According to the National Park Service, the reptiles usually hang out under rocks, logs and woodpiles.

Once a snake is ready to raise its body temperature, it comes into view.

According to Sonoma County Regional Parks, a rattlesnake can strike up to two-thirds of its body length.

If you encounter a snake on a trail, stay at least 10 steps away from it, or as far away as possible.

A rattlesnake jumps with its mouth open in long grass.  livelow/GettyA rattlesnake jumps with its mouth open in long grass.  livelow/Getty

A rattlesnake jumps with its mouth open in long grass. livelow/Getty

How common are rattlesnake bites?

Unless provoked, rattlesnakes usually avoid people, according to the Forest Service.

If a snake does attack, they usually grab the hands, feet and ankles.

In the United States, approximately 1,000 people are bitten by rattlesnakes each year.

How to avoid snakes

Below are some tips for avoiding rattlesnakes and other snakes outdoors, according to the Forest Service:

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Prepare for your walk

  • Wear over-the-knee boots, thick socks and loose-fitting long pants.

  • Do not go barefoot or wear sandals

While you are travelling

  • When exploring, stick to well-used trails

  • Avoid walking through tall grass and weeds

  • Watch where you step

  • Avoid wandering around in the dark

  • When going over fallen trees or large rocks, inspect surrounding areas to make sure there are no snakes

  • Be careful when climbing rocks or collecting firewood

  • Shake out the sleeping bags before using them and inspect the logs before sitting down

Other tips

  • Avoid grabbing sticks and branches while swimming in lakes and rivers. Snakes can swim and can sometimes pass for sticks

  • Avoid approaching snakes. Even a freshly killed snake can still inject venom

Snake fighter Len Ramirez displays a three-foot rattlesnake he caught in Lincoln in 2012.  Lezlie Sterling/lsterling@sacbee.comSnake fighter Len Ramirez displays a three-foot rattlesnake he caught in Lincoln in 2012.  Lezlie Sterling/lsterling@sacbee.com

Snake fighter Len Ramirez displays a three-foot rattlesnake he caught in Lincoln in 2012. Lezlie Sterling/lsterling@sacbee.com

What should I do if I am bitten by a rattlesnake?

Not all rattlesnake bites are fatal.

According to the Forest Service, 25% of rattlesnake bites between April and October are “dry” bites, meaning no venom has been injected into the person.

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If you’re bitten by a snake, here what must we do:

  • Stay calm to slow the spread of the poison

  • Wash the area gently with soap and water

  • Apply a cold, wet cloth over the bite

  • Remove any watches or rings that may limit swelling

  • Immobilize the affected area

  • Try to remember the color and shape of the snake for later treatment. Photograph it if possible.

  • Call 911 and seek medical attention as soon as possible

If you can’t get to the hospital right away, lie down or sit with the bite below the level of your heart. Then wash the wound with warm, soapy water and cover it with clean, dry material.

Here is what not to do according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Do not pick up the snake or attempt to trap it

  • Do not apply a tourniquet (material used to prevent blood flow)

  • Do not cut the wound with a knife

  • Don’t suck the poison

  • Do not apply ice or soak the wound in water

  • Don’t drink alcohol

  • Don’t drink caffeine

What do you want to know about living in Sacramento? Ask our service journalism team your key questions in the module below or email servicejournalists@sacbee.com.

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