2020.02.09 Rattlesnake Tree

One of my neighbors regularly walks at the wee hours in the hills. When we passed this tree at the not quite so wee hours lately, we both said "Rattlesnake Tree".

There weren't any snakes - it is probably still a little early in the year. But when they do come out of hibernation, trees like this hollow old oak are favorite hiding places. And as you can see, this tree is not hiding in a far corner of Rancho San Antonio - it is right by the most trafficked path on the way to Deer Hollow Farm.

My neighbor knew of the tree's "natural use" because another day a toddler had been chasing a rattle snake on the path while his parents interested recorded the whole scenario on their phones. Gradually a big group of curious people has all gathered around the little group to watch and take pictures.

Luckily for everybody, they had not completely encircled the animal that slithered away across the road.

How can a dozen adults possibly be so careless? Rattlesnakes are deadly poisonous. Leave them alone.

This is from the Biology section of the website where you can read more about what other friendly and unfriendly critters the area offers:

  • In the morning you can meet the rattle snake coiled up in the sun in the middle of a trail, trying to get the cold of the night out of its body. Later in the day the snakes often seek the shadow of a hollow tree or a ground squirrel hole - so don't put your hands where you can't see them and don't let your kids play in hollow trees without checking for snakes first.
  • The smallest snakes are the most dangerous. Older snakes know to hold back some venom in case of more than one enemy around - the younger give all they have. Fortunately, they rather want you to back away and will use the rattle to scare you off. I almost stepped on such a little snake, thinking the sound was from some flying insect. I was about a foot away but it didn't strike at me. So if you see a snake just give it some space. I have done that the other 4-5 times I have met one - and for my own peace of mind made it at a distance of more than a foot.
  • Supposedly it is very painful to get bitten and the best you can do is to be still, whip out your phone and call 911. If you are out of coverage or don't have a cell phone get somebody to run like crazy for help and don't try to be a hero. The hospital has helicopters for rescuing people from the hills.

Rancho San Antonio or many of our other beautiful natural spaces may almost be like a city park, but it certainly is not Jægersborg Dyrehave.

March update: I walked past Rattlesnake Tree on March 14th. It is now taped off with yellow caution tape so nobody climbs into the hollow trunk. Not pretty - but I can't help wondering if somebody had to get hurt for this to happen.