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Watch your step! It's rattlesnake season on the Central Coast

Posted at 3:02 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-22 01:30:06-04

It's peak rattlesnake season on the Central Coast.

Experts say they're already seeing more slithering around in local yards this spring due to the drought.

"The snakes are thirsty," said Emily Taylor, professor of Biological Sciences at Cal Poly and owner of Central Coast Snake Services.

Taylor studies the reptiles and wrangles them from local yards.

"I've been out here five years and like the last two or three years, it's just been something's going on because I have all kinds of snake videos because I'm always out taking them," said Phil Grant of Los Osos.

Grant recently captured cell phone video of a rattlesnake coiled in his front yard.

"It was like holy you know what, there's a rattlesnake out here again," Grant said.

"Essentially, it's going to be the beginning of a very rough year for the snakes in peoples' yards," Taylor added.

Taylor says the snakes are looking for water and it could get worse.

"They thrive here," Taylor said. "We just published a paper showing that climate change is probably going to cause them to do even better than they already are."

She says there are a number of hot spots and so far this season she's received calls from the Lake Nacimiento area, Heritage Ranch, the foothills of San Luis Obispo, and near the new Pismo Preserve.

"If you see a rattlesnake, do not try to pick it up," said Dr. Brian Koch, Twin Cities Community Hospital Emergency Physician. "The number one site of a rattlesnake bite in a young male is on their dominant hand."

Dr. Koch says overall, legs are the most common site for a snake bite.

So far this season, there's been one patient with a rattlesnake bite at Twin Cities Community Hospital. In 2018, there were nine. Sierra Vista has had one patient this season.

If you do get bitten, keep in mind, the sooner you can get to the hospital, the better.

"Six hours is usually the cut-off," Dr. Koch said.

He adds that about 25% of rattlesnake bites are dry bites and less than 1% are deadly.

"But there can be significant tissue damage and the sooner we get the antivenom, the better," Dr. Koch said.

Twin Cities Community Hospital and Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center both carry ANAVIP, an antivenom.

"ANAVIP is dosed 10 vials at a time," said Keith Boesen, Rare Disease Therapeutics Vice President of Medical Affairs. "Most patients do good with 10 vials. Sometimes patients need 20 vials and very few times they need more than that to really get control of that envenomation."

Dr. Koch adds that snake bite kits, suctioning, or cutting into the wound do not work.

"Never wrap a belt around the extremity to prevent the venom from coming in, that actually causes more tissue damage because it confines the venom," Dr. Koch said.

With more snakes now out and about, it's a friendly reminder to watch your step.

"If you go hiking out here, you better be aware, because they are out there," Grant said.

The wholesale price of a vial of ANAVIP is $1,220.

There is a rattlesnake aversion training workshop for dogs on June 4 in Nipomo. To sign up, call (805) 401-0811.