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Watch out for rattlesnakes

Numerous sightings of the venomous reptiles have been reported in Laguna Beach.

May 18, 2010|By Ashley Breeding

The number of rattlesnakes is on the rise again, with more than a dozen reported in hillside homes and gardens in recent weeks, and the numbers will continue to increase in the hotter months, said Joy Falk, a senior animal services officer in Laguna Beach.

To avoid attack, it’s important that people take precautionary measures and know how to react if they encounter a rattlesnake, she said.

Rattlers are prevalent in both sunny and shaded areas in the spring and summer months, because their bodies aren’t thermo-regulated and they move back and forth between hot and cool temperatures.

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“People are bitten when they mistakenly step up on snakes or poke at them,” she said. “If you see a rattlesnake, give it some room. If you give it a wide berth, it will be fine and it usually won’t attack.”

She also advises residents of hilltop communities like Top of the World, Arch Beach Heights and Bluebird Canyon to survey their surroundings before picking items up in areas like the garden or on the pool deck.

“The last thing you want to do is startle a rattlesnake,” she said. “If you find one in your home, call Animal Control and we’ll remove it.”

While rattlesnake venom can be fatal to humans, dogs are the most susceptible to death from an attack, she said, and they are also more likely to approach the snakes.

They’ve already seen three cases this spring.

Hikers should keep their dogs on leashes to avoid potentially hazardous situations.

If a person is bitten, he or she should immediately remove jewelry and loosen clothing because tissue in the body will swell.

It’s also important, Falk said, to call 911 right away and remain as still as possible until help arrives, to prevent the toxin from moving throughout the body.

“Venom can take off like lightning through your system, and do muscle and tissue damage, so you want to prevent that,” she said.

There is a vaccine that can be given to dogs as a precaution, said Sarah Wilcox, practice manager at Dr. John Hamil's veterinary office in Laguna Beach. The rattlesnake vaccine (Crotalus Atrox Toxoid), consists of small doses of snake venom, and is being offered to dogs at their office.  The vaccine requires two shots, one month apart.  For more information, call (949) 494-1076


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