2017.05.04 Warming up

Often, when we have friends visiting from "the old country", they have planned to visit all the local State and National parks. Then they realize that California is a very big state and that one may take in breathtaking beautiful nature by just driving a little away from Silicon Valley.

It really does take the stress off the vacation that visiting all the parks is not mandatory.

Now that the weather has warmed up we may, however, experience parts of nature that makes for good stories afterwards but will have the little hairs on the back of the neck stand straight up.

Look carefully at the picture accompanying this post. It shows one of the local inhabitants that has been hiding all winter but now has come out to enjoy being heated through. You will often find them on a foot path because, as you may have noticed, the vegetation is quite abundant this year and the tall grasses don't let much sun through.

In this case the snake is not a Western Diamondback but the harmless Gopher Snake.

The Gopher Snake pretends to be a Rattlesnake by rustling its tail among dry leaves but it doesn't have its own rattle at the tip of the tail. Another difference is that the back of a rattlesnake head is broader compared to the width of the body. (As you will rarely see a Gopher Snake and a Rattler side by side in nature, you will have to look at pictures or go to a museum/nature center with stuffed animals to know this difference.)

If you come from a country where poisonous snakes are not a thing, you may not think about the potential consequences of skipping merrily along a nature path or making a shortcut across a field. You may not think that if you let your kids run ahead to the playground, they, too, may come across this danger.

We have vipers but also pumas, poisonous spiders, and nasty plants. Read more on California nature here.

The answer to this is not to become paranoid or not take your children into nature. The answer is to educate yourself and them on how to behave responsibly.

Sensible rules are to use brain, eyes, and ears:

  • If something rattles, stop immediately and retreat.
  • Don't put hands or feet where you can't see them. Hollow trees or gopher holes may hold snake pits.
  • Don't lift rocks or pieces of wood so the hidden side faces you. Turn it away from you so any crawlers may run away and not up your pant leg.

I have seen rattle snakes while walking Arastadero, Rancho San Antonio, Hidden Villa, Windy Hill, and even Shoreline but I haven't seen one every year and I have never been bitten. The unlucky guy who over the weekend planted his hand in a snake sunning on top of a rock was not as lucky and was evacuated by helicopter. You shouldn't run for help if you have been bitten. That will just spread the poison faster.

Planning a nature trip? Wear seat belts, bring water, wear sunscreen and a hat. Car accidents and sun burns are much more likely risks than rattlesnakes.