California

Rattlesnake bites hiker in California. It’s rattler season again — be on the lookout

Watch two rattlesnakes fight it out on a trail in northern California

UC Davis snake expert Brian Todd explains what's going on as two rattlesnakes tangle in front of Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman and reporter Ryan Sabalow on a trail near Auburn, California. Photos by Eric Ohman.
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UC Davis snake expert Brian Todd explains what's going on as two rattlesnakes tangle in front of Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman and reporter Ryan Sabalow on a trail near Auburn, California. Photos by Eric Ohman.

A 79-year-old man hiking on Mt. Tamalpais in the Bay Area had to be airlifted to a hospital Sunday after suffering several rattlesnake bites.

The Marin County Fire Department arrived at 2:15 p.m. Sunday to assist the hiker, who was flown to a Walnut Creek hospital by a California Highway Patrol helicopter, the CHP says. The man was reported to be in stable condition.

Across the San Francisco Bay, hikers on Mission Peak in Fremont also were on the lookout for rattlesnakes, which are becoming more active with the arrival of warmer weather, reported KPIX.

rattler
A California Highway Patrol helicopter prepares to airlift a 79-year-old man who suffered several rattlesnake bites Sunday hiking on Mt. Tamalpais in the Bay Area. California Highway Patrol

“They slither across the trail, but sometimes you hear them just on the side,” veteran hiker Kim Baggy told the station. “I always worry about the little kids that are on the trail on their bikes because they’re riding along. They’re not going to stop in time.”

Rattlesnakes are shy and will gladly retreat if given enough room, experts say. But their bites can be extremely dangerous and require immediate attention.

More than 300 people are bitten by rattlesnakes each year, resulting in an average of one death a year in California, according to the California Poison Control System.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife offers these tips for avoiding rattlesnakes:

  • Stay alert. After a cool night, rattlesnakes will try to warm up by basking in the sun. A startled rattlesnake may not rattle before striking.

  • Wear sturdy boots and loose-fitting pants. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through brushy, wild areas.

  • Stick to well-used trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during warmer parts of the day.

  • Don’t put your hands or feet where you can’t see.

  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming. Rattlesnakes can swim.

  • Never hike alone.

  • Leash your dog when hiking. Talk to your veterinarian about canine rattlesnake vaccines and what to do if your pet is bitten.

It’s rattlesnake season in the Sacramento region and there is a higher than normal chance you’ll encounter one near a trail this summer. Here’s how to keep your dog safe.

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