Spring is in the air in California, and as the weather warms up, it’s a treat to see some of the animals that call our open space their home. Everyone likes seeing butterflies, birds and bobcats while out exploring the trails, but who enjoys seeing snakes? I know that I do, but many people’s initial response to encountering a snake is fear or disgust. Why do snakes get a bad rap? A fear of snakes runs deep through ancient mythology and the Bible, but our disdain is misguided.
Snakes are cold-blooded reptiles that are secondary consumers (they eat animals that eat plants) and fall into the middle of the food web. They play an important role in our local ecosystem by controlling rodent populations and by providing food for raptors.
People are often scared of snakes, but in reality, snakes are also scared of people! The best defense a snake has is to avoid confrontation by slithering away or by warning others to stay away (like rattlesnakes do). Although you don’t need to be scared of snakes, you should be careful when you see one and give them their space.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be alert during warmer weather and in the evening when snakes are most active.
- Never put your hands or feet where you can’t see them.
- Wear closed-toed shoes on the trail.
- Stick to the trail! Snakes can be hard to see in tall grass and in rock crevices.
- Learn to identify the common species in the OC.
- Remember not to panic if you see a snake – this is their home!
Next time you’re out on the trail and see a snake, stop and observe it for a while. You might be surprised to find yourself enjoying snakes after all! 🙂
Nineteen different species of snake make their home in Orange County. Snakes most often encountered in the wild in Orange County include:
Gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer)
Southern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri)
California kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae)
Interested in learning more about snakes, and even getting the opportunity to touch one yourself? Register now for our RATTLESNAKE! event in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on Saturday, April 29th. See and even touch live, non-venomous snakes displayed by snake researcher Steve Bledsoe of Southwestern Field Herping Associates. Enjoy fun crafts. Learn to ID rattlesnakes and what to do if you encounter one. Come prepared to have your most interesting snake questions answered!
Aliso Creek stretches for 19 miles through our cities and canyons, originating in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains and culminating in a tidal lagoon at Aliso Beach. In the 1800s, Spanish explorers named the creek Aliso, meaning alder, in reverence of the existing riparian vegetation. The creek was the historical boundary between the Acjachemem and Tongva tribes and contains sensitive archaeological resources.
The Aliso Creek watershed is primarily urban and suburban. Very little wilderness or undisturbed land remains in the watershed outside of the immediate vicinity of Aliso Creek and the 4,000+ acre Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, making the this area particularly crucial for a range of wildlife. A variety of native habitats, including willow scrub, riparian woodland, and mulefat scrub, exists within the watershed. This diverse habitat is the home of several endangered or threatened species, including Least Bell’s Vireo, Southwestern Pond Turtle, Coast Horned Lizard, and others. The creek is a critical corridor for wildlife moving into the South Coast Wilderness, allowing animals safe passage even through developed areas while providing access to food, water and shelter.
Today, the creek needs our help. Aliso Creek and the plant community it sustains is possibly the most degraded major riparian corridor in Orange County, having suffered from a long history of pollution, development, invasive Arundo (giant cane) infestation, access limitations, and neglect. For over 40 years, local land managers, nonprofit organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies, and the public have all advocated for restoration of the creek and its banks. Laguna Canyon Foundation and its partners have led a multi-year effort to initiate the restoration of Aliso Creek from its headwaters to its ocean outflow. The 55-acre Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Measure M Aliso Creek project has removed 30 acres of Arundo from the watershed and begun to restore native vegetation to a critical section of the creek.
In order to preserve the creek and the wildlife it supports, Laguna Canyon Foundation and its partners and volunteers work to remove invasive vegetation and replant natives. A diverse native plant community provides habitat for a variety of local wildlife, including endangered species like the Least Bell’s Vireo, and helps the ecosystem resist destruction by drought, fire, flood, or future takeovers by invasive species such as Arundo.
The Aliso Creek Regional Bikeway, Riding and Hiking Trail runs for 15 miles from the Santa Ana Mountains to Laguna Beach, offering many opportunities to enjoy the wildlife and scenic beauty of Aliso Creek. Interested in getting off the trail and adopting the creek and areas surrounding it? Join us at one of our monthly Keep It Wild events in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park to help out with planting natives, weed removal or trash pick-up!
We live in such a special – and important – place. The South Coast Wilderness is a unique area that is included in the California Floristic Province, which is designated as a global biodiversity hotspot. To qualify as a global biodiversity hotspot, an area must have at least 1,500 endemic species (species found nowhere else on the planet), and have lost at least 70% of its native vegetation.
Our mission at Laguna Canyon Foundation is to protect, preserve, enhance and promote the South Coast Wilderness. A great way to do all of these things is to participate in stewardship activities. Stewardship in this sense means taking responsibility for the care and management of the land. This may take many forms, including removing invasive species from sensitive native habitats, adding native plants in degraded areas to restore them to their historic condition, or educating the general public about the beauty, ecology and threats to our wild lands. All of these activities can greatly impact the native habitats that are found in the open space, and help the unique, threatened, and endangered species that make the South Coast Wilderness such an important place to preserve and protect.
An undisturbed native habitat supports a diverse population of plants and wildlife, while a disturbed habitat does not make a good home.Take a moment to imagine a hillside of mustard versus a hillside full of native plants like sagebrush (Artemisia californica), buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), and lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia). While wildlife can use mustard for food and shelter, most species greatly prefer the native hillside, with a variety of insect hosts, different seed types, and a varied blooming schedule.
There are no requirements or special skills needed to be a steward except the motivation to show up and participate. So, what are you waiting for? Come join the fun and learn more about stewardship with LCF! Sign up for a volunteer day on our Eventbrite page, and find out for yourself what it’s all about.
Upcoming LCF stewardship events:
• Sat 2/25 Nursery and Plant Care at Willow – Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
• Tues 2/28 LCF Restoration Stewardship Day – Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
• Sat 3/18 Keep it Wild Volunteer Day – Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
Interested in learning more about habitat restoration and stewardship? Sign up for our monthly Restoration Team Newsletter using the form below!