Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Crotalus viridis - Southern Pacific Rattlesnak...Image via Wikipedia

On a scorching hot day last week I was driving on a narrow road just West of Santa Theresa Golf Course, when, suddenly I slowed down to get a better look at what was
slithering off the right shoulder of the road. It was a rattlesnake about 5 feet long with a thick, rattle-like tail. I quickly pulled over and stopped about 40 feet short of where this reptile was making its get-away towards an open ditch.
As I hopped out of the car I had just enough time to see the snake dissappear into the dry bushes and trees just off the road, which jutted down into a steep ravine...and apparently to the safety of the arid foothills.
This wasn't the first rattlesnake I've seen in this area over the past several years. The last one was run-over and killed in the middle of a similiar road...which inspires a few other interesting recollections: The first is a joke you may have heard... (What's the difference between a dead rattlesnake in the middle of the road...and a dead lawyer?? Answer: There are skid marks in front of the rattlesnake!!) .
These next observations aren't so funny: California is a hot bed for a number of species of rattlesnakes, all very poisenous. Being bitten leads to serious injury and often...death. So, be extra careful when walking in hilly, rocky, dry areas especially the open countryside.
Awareness and avoidance are keys to rattlesnake safety. Don't bother them and they won't bother you. The danger is stumbling upon them suddenly, causing them to coil and strike at lightning speed with a venomous bite meant to protect them, and...possibly kill you. So, STAY AWAY...especially in the late Summer months of August and September when rattlesnakes often shed their skin and often go temporarily blind, making them even more dangerous.
Years ago I played lots of golf... often at Santa Theresa, and often in the late Summer. Hearing the hisses and rattles from the hillsides off the fairways, kept me from even thinking of trying to find an errant shot. Better to suffer two penalty strokes, than to take one from a rattlesnake. I also saw a few shedded snake skins over the years, one measuring seven feet long! It reminded me of one Santa Theresa Golf "Urban Legend"!!
The story goes a golfer was searching for his ball behind the green at the end of the 11th hole, where the area behind the green sinks down into dense, dry ravine of trees and bushes. Allegedly, the poor soul stumbled onto a nest of baby rattlesnakes and their mother....suffering multiple bites. It was the last hole the golfer ever played.
While I can't be sure this story happened, I'll close with one final lesson a guy learned while stumbling on a rattlesnake crossing the road....just like I mentioned at the beginning.
Only, he stopped and picked up the snake... a large diamond-back rattler, which then laid a huge bite on his hand. This man made it to a hospital in the nick of time, only to barely escape with his life. He also nearly lost what was left of his hand. The large dose of bite-. venom ate away most of its tissue. The next 6-months were the most painful and regrettable for this man or anyone else to possibly imagine.
I watched this on the "Animal Planet" cable channel. Rattlesnakes have their rightful place out in the open country, but if you come upon one trying to cross the road, stay away...and let it cross!!
"Best Wishes"--PTCJr
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