RiverWatch February 2018


Rattlesnakes are native to San Diego and the River Park is no exception. Whether you walk our trails or encounter a rattlesnake around your own home, please keep these helpful tips in mind.

Anyone familiar with San Diego knows that we are famous for having a very stable climate, year-round. This year in particular, we have had a warmer than usual winter. This has led to reptiles, including rattlesnakes, to be out of hibernation and active throughout the county much earlier than expected.

Rattlesnakes have some very distinctive physical characteristics, but for the purpose of erring on the side of caution, we recommend you assume any snake bite is venomous and be proactive in getting professional help and treatment.

As a preventative measure, a good rule is that if you cannot see where you are placing your hands or feet, you should not be there. Avoid tall grass, weeds and underbrush. Do not reach into rock crevices and do not shuffle through dense leave piles as these are potential places snakes could be hiding. While at the River Park, stay on the trail!

Do not rely on hearing a rattle to alert you a rattlesnake is nearby. Contrary to popular belief, rattlesnakes do not always rattle before striking, and even if they do, an inexperienced ear often cannot identify it. Constantly scan your surroundings and be aware. Should you ever come across a rattlesnake, slowly back away. Any quick movements could be misconstrued as threatening. A snake's nature is to want to get away. If you give them space and the opportunity to flee, they will not pursue you. A strike is likely the result of the snake feeling threatened or harmed.

Should you ever be bitten, your first step is to stay as calm as possible and call 9-1-1, immediately. Keeping calm helps to keep your heart rate from climbing which can help to slow circulation of the venom. 9-1-1 will coordinate emergency transportation and resources, including having antivenin ready at the hospital. While waiting for help to arrive, keep the bite area below the heart. This allows gravity to aide in slowing the venom's circulation. Additionally, because swelling will happen quickly, remove anything that could be potentially constricting from the limb or bite area such as watches, rings, bracelets, socks and shoes. Do not apply a tourniquet, ice or attempt to suck the poison out. If possible, capture a photo of the snake to help with identification.

As for your pets, some dogs are naturally curious and are at risk of being harmed by a rattlesnake. We highly recommend you put your dog(s) through Rattlesnake Avoidance Training with a reputable trainer. For your convenience, the River Park has booked a private training opportunity onsite at the River Park on July 21st. The training sessions are by appointment only and the cost is $77, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the River Park. If you would like to schedule your dog to train with us, register here and an invoice will be emailed to you for payment.

Register your DOG for Rattlesnake Avoidance Training


GOPHER SNAKE - FRIEND, NONVENOMOUS, eats pests and vermin, harmless to people and larger pets.

Gopher Snake Identifiers: checkerboard-like pattern, round eyes and jellybean-shaped head.

GARTER SNAKE - FRIEND, NONVENOMOUS, eats pests and vermin, harmless to people and larger pets.

Garter Snake Identifiers: horizontal racing stripe, round eyes and jellybean-shaped head.

CALIFORNIA KING SNAKE - BEST FRIEND, NONVENOMOUS, eats pests and vermin, ALSO EATS RATTLESNAKES, harmless to people and larger pets. Where you have an active King Snake population, you likely will not have any rattlesnakes.

California King Snake Identifiers: banded or striped, colors could be black or brown with white or yellow and a jellybean-shaped head.

RACER SNAKE - FRIEND, NONVENOMOUS, eats pests and vermin, ALSO EATS RATTLESNAKES, harmless to people and larger pets.

Racer Snake Identifiers: generally a solid body (red or black commonly in SD) with a racing stripe and a jellybean-shaped head.

RED COACHWHIP SNAKE - FRIEND, NONVENOMOUS, eats pests and vermin, harmless to people and larger pets.

Coachwhip Snake Identifiers: color could vary from red to tan with mottled spots of like color, jellybean-shaped head and very large, round eyes.

RATTLESNAKE - VENOMOUS, This particular picture is of a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, however there are a number of other varieties to be found in San Diego, including but not limited to: Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes and Red Diamondback Rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnake Identifiers: triangular head, elliptical eyes, rattle on tail with adjacent colored bands, darker spots along body that are completely surrounded by a lighter band. Rattlesnakes are master hide-and-seek champions. Even within the same species, you will find color variances and their color will match their surroundings.

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