‘Tis the Season to Shake, Rattle, and Coil
By Philip Bonafede
Joshua Tree Voice is happy to introduce Philip Bonafede, a Morongo Basin resident expert on one of our less popular desert natives, the rattlesnake.
The actual rattlesnake season is usually consistent with temperatures. Since they are classified exothermic or coldblooded, they need sunshine and warm temperatures to get moving. In 2021, they were active in the end of March and early April through mid-November.
What can I do?
I get asked a lot how folks can keep rattlesnakes out of their yards. While it is possible, it might also be costly. 1/4-inch fencing works for those who must absolutely have a deterrent. What most people do not know is that rattlesnakes can climb over fences. Usually, they will opt to go around and avoid a well-fenced yard, as they are masters of conserving energy.
Some of the basic safety precautions that hikers and high desert homeowners can take is watching a recent lecture by Dr. Emily Taylor on YouTube, or by attending one of my K9 Aversion classes, and meet a live rattlesnake.
Simple things like watching where you place your hands and feet can help you avoid a bite. Wearing protective boots when hiking and carrying a long
hiking stick will help you greatly.
Your dogs need K9 rattlesnake aversion training between the ages of 6 months through 10 years, depending on the breed. This can save you thousands of dollars at the vet. Dogs under 20 pounds can die from a bite.
Rattlesnakes are most active during the mating season in the high desert. This is usually April through June. They are mostly active in the early evening hours near and after sunset, when they search for food and stake out an ambush location using their incredible sense of scent. Once they have dined on their rodent of choice, they search for a safe place to digest for a couple days or so. They require a safe place from predators, as they are now vulnerable because feeding slows
their momentum. The bigger the rat, the slower they move. Not surprisingly, rattlesnakes end up on or near a home on the concrete or near water because it is cooler than the desert sand. When I do rescues, this is a common place I find them. Last season, I even found a Mojave coiled in a lady’s living room! So, ALWAYS LOOK where you are stepping, reaching, placing your hands, etc.
Local Rattlesnake Relocation
If you encounter a rattlesnake on your property, there are now several professional wranglers who will come and gently remove the snake and properly relocate it in a safe place for you and the snake.
1. Baby rattlesnakes are not more dangerous than adults. Their venom glands are tiny. Science and logic will never support this ‘urban legend.’
2. Rattlesnakes are NOT aggressive. They do not chase people. They are curious and sometime will come towards a human to sniff your boots and then go on their merry way.
3. Rattlesnakes give birth to live young and this past year, did so in October. The do not lay eggs.
Two hour old speckled rattlesnake. 10 inches long. No scales yet, they have soft skin until they shed for the first time in 2 weeks.
Rattlesnake Bites & Statistics
A rattlesnake bite is a medical emergency. Apply a light compress and transport immediately. Remove all jewelry around the site of the bite immediately. Don’t panic. Statistically, 5 people die annually in the USA out of approximately 8,000 bites. By contrast, your car is about 1,000 times more dangerous and kills thousands of people annually, but no one takes a shotgun to their car!
About the Author: Philip Bonafede has been wrangling rattlesnakes for over 50 years. He offers a K9 Rattlesnake Aversion Class that delivers a serious message to dogs that can spare them the danger and pain of a rattlesnake encounter. Dogs never learn from a rattlesnake bite. They will go out and get bitten again and again. For more details, text your questions 760-401-4488. Find him on Facebook: Phil’s K9 Rattlesnake Aversion Classes.