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!