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Rattlesnakes, Flowers Surfacing As Warm Temperatures Arrive In Santa Clarita

A Santa Clarita herpetologist discussed the importance rattlesnakes play in the environment, and offers a free service to relocate them instead of having firefighters kill them.

As spring has sprung, rattlesnakes along with the weeds and flowers are beginning to start surfacing from the ground.

“The typical month is April, is the most active month,” said John Lauermann, a Santa Clarita field herpetologist. “But you’re going to see (rattlesnakes) activity rise anytime from March through the summer at night time.”

A sign that rattlesnakes may be coming above ground is when temperatures are around 50 degrees in the evening time and around 80 to 82 degrees during the day, according to Lauermann.

“Once the daytime temperatures get too hot they will become more nocturnal, and throughout the summer when it gets too hot they will go back underground and look for cooler spots,” Lauermann said.

While rattlesnakes are spending time underground, they are living active lives.

“They hunt underground, they live underground and they move up and down underground to regulate their temperature,” Lauermann said.

Unlike some animals during the winter rattlesnakes do not hibernate.

“They never really sleep. Even in the winter they do a process called brumation, which is just their temperature gets so low they are inactive but they are not asleep,” Lauermann said.

While temperatures are warmer, which is an inviting atmosphere for snakes, some Santa Clarita residents do not want them around.

Despite the fear some people have for snakes, which Lauermann says is mainly instilled into them from a young age, these legless moving reptiles play a big role in the ecosystem.

“They’re part of the ecosystem,” Lauermann said.

Birds and snakes of all sorts, whether they rattle or not, help keep rats, mice and rabbits under control.

“If you get rid of the snakes, you open up the population for field mice and all that to take over. An adult rattlesnake can eat five to six full-sized mice, or a big enough rattlesnake can eat a rabbit.”

Although snakes appear to sometimes be on the thinner side, they have the ability to unhinge their jaw, and swallow something three times their diameter, according to Lauermann.

Lauermann is urging residents to call him if they come across an unwanted visitor, because when you kill one, others will move in right away, he said.

And while some may want baby rattlers killed because they are more dangerous than an adult, well, Lauermann says, that is not true.

“The theory is that a baby rattlesnake can’t control their venom. Which would mean the first time it bit something it would use all its venom and would have no venom to subdue prey, and it wouldn’t survive,” Lauermann said. “They can control their venom from birth, and a baby rattlesnake is about twice the toxicity of an adult. But an adult carries about 10 times the amount in its venom sack.”

There is no way to keep snakes of all types and sizes out of your yard, Lauermann said.

“The situation is, when you move to a place like say Castaic, and you move up against the mountains, you need to be aware that you are moving into their territory,” Lauermann said. “They have been there for a long time, and you’re not going to get rid of them by killing one or moving one, there not going to go away. They’re also going to come back most of them are underground, you don’t even see them. The best thing is to learn to live with them, just like learning to live with coyotes and other wildlife, it’s just part of the ecology up here. If you don’t want that, I would recommend moving to somewhere else like the middle of the San Fernando Valley.”

To prevent snake bites, always make sure you look where you are putting your hands and feet, especially if you are gardening.

It is strongly recommended that those who have a green thumb never plunge your hands into weeds or high grass without thoroughly looking for snakes.

For those who do fall victim to a snake bite, you are encouraged to circle the area you were bit and to go to the emergency room. First responders also say to never wrap limbs with a tourniquet if you are bitten.

To contact Lauerman to relocate a snake for you, he can be reached at 661-645-6024.

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