If you can’t see a rattlesnake, does it still exist?
The reptiles are sensitive to ambient temperature, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and adjust their behavior accordingly.
In the fall and winter months, rattlesnakes are inactive and may go into brumation, where they are mostly dormant, according to the department.
Here are the rattlesnakes you may come across in California, where they establish themselves in the winter, and how to treat bites:
Where do rattlesnakes go when it gets cold?
Rattlesnakes can live in rural and urban areas, on riverbanks, in parks and at golf courses, according to Fish and Wildlife. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under wood piles.
Rattlesnakes require rocky, open areas for basking and hiding with a nearby water source. They can also swim.
During the colder months, rattlesnakes may gather and establish themselves in dens, according to the department.
These dens are often in rocky crevices where heat is retained, the department said, but they may also be found underneath homes or other manmade structures.
Which rattlesnake species live in California?
California is home to 50 species of snakes, seven of which are rattlers, according to Fish and Wildlife.
These are the rattlesnake species found in the Golden State:
Mohave rattlesnake: “Probably the most dangerous snake in North America,” Fish and Wildlife said. Found in the desert and foothills of southeastern California.
Panamint rattlesnake: Remains active until midautumn. Found in inland desert areas with more northerly distribution across southern California.
Red diamond rattlesnake: Young are born from mid-August to October. Found in Baja California and in southwestern California south of Los Angeles.
Sidewinder: The “horned rattler” and the smallest rattlesnake in California. Normally buries itself in a coil in fine sand at the base of a bush. Commonly found in desert areas from below sea level up to 6,000 feet.
Speckled rattlesnake: Remains active until mid-fall. Found in desert areas from Baja California and much of the Colorado, Mojave, and Sonoran Deserts.
Western diamond-backed rattlesnake: Rare. Considered one of the most dangerous snakes in North America. May be found in desert areas in the far southeastern part of the state.
Western rattlesnake: The most widespread in the state. Subspecies include he Northern Pacific rattlesnake, found throughout central and coastal northern California; the Southern Pacific rattlesnake, found in coastal southern California, and the Great Basin rattlesnake found in northern Sierra Nevada.
What to do if you get bit by a rattlesnake
Most rattlesnake bites occur between April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors, according to Fish and Wildlife.
If you are bit by a rattlesnake, the department says to stay calm but act quickly. Remove items that may constrict swelling such as watches, rings and shoes.
Bite victims should be transported to the nearest hospital.
Tourniquets and ice packs should not be applied, the department says.
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