While weeding and creating defensible space around your structures
you're likely to encounter living things in the grass. Sometimes it's
a lizard or a mouse scurrying out of the mowers path. Then there are
those other times when the creature is slithering out of the way.
This time of year the SLO Coast's Santa Lucia Mountains are crawling
with snakes. There are garter snakes at the pond's edge, gopher snakes
around the garden, king snakes on the trail, and rattlesnakes in the
tall grass. Yikes!
When the yard equipment is off and a person can actually hear the
natural environment, the sound of rattling rattles is very
distinctive. If you stop and listen — and you'd better in order to
pinpoint its location — you soon realize the noise is a Western
Diamondback rattlesnake sending you a message, putting you on notice,
giving you one last chance to avoid stepping into the danger zone.
Although the caution signal is on a smaller scale than the ringing
bells and barricades at a railroad crossing, once you recognize the
rattle, your instincts will tell you to heed the warning and stop in
your tracks. Usually, that's right after you nearly wet yourself and
scream like a little girl.
Whether you're horseback riding, hiking, landscaping, or recreating in
rattlesnake country, you'll want to willingly allow a buzzing rattler
the right of way. It doesn't matter if you can or can't see him down
there, all camouflaged, blending into the dirt and rock. Your nerves
and intelligence will insist you give him a respectful and wide berth.
The laughable thing is that once you've heard the rattlesnake's alarm
go off in the vicinity of your feet, it's possible you'll be
ultra-sensitive to similar sounds for the rest of the season. Suddenly
everything sounds like a giant granddaddy rattlesnake in the grass.
You may jump back when you hear a nozzle spraying water. Your hair may
raise and your spine might tingle when you hear a leaky valve stem. At
the very least you'll think twice when the wind rustles the
Try to forget about your rattlesnake encounter but forever more you
will remember the exact place where you heard or saw that menacing
looking pit viper. Every time you pass that spot you'll inspect it.
And don't be surprised if you find yourself checking every snake-sized
stick on the ground for a diamond pattern.
Sure rattlesnakes are in the grass, under logs and lumber piles,
around outbuildings, and just about anywhere there's a mouse house.
Sometimes they choose the darnedest places to hide. Just ask my mom
who once found a baby rattler in her glove left on a stack of
If someone does get bit by a rattler keep the bite below the level of
the heart, keep the person as still and relaxed as possible, and
transport the wounded to the nearest medical facility. No panic, no
tourniquet, no knife, no sucking and spitting out the venom.
Of course, prevention is best. Awareness and avoidance are good things
but so is a pair of knee high boots. Be careful out there. Watch where
you put your feet and your hands while you're spring cleaning.