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Rattlesnakes

Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes. Ophidiophobia is one of top fears among Americans, but with some knowledge on snakes, especially rattlesnakes, we can learn to live in peace with our scaly friends. Download the brochure.


Rattlesnakes play an important role in population control of small mammals such as rats and mice. Because of the part they play in local ecosystems, they are fully protected within San Diego County Parks.

Did you know?

  • Rattlesnakes use their forked tongue to taste the smell of the air.
  • They can sense both reflected visual light (like humans) and infrared light which is given off by an animal’s body heat.

Rattlesnakes are easily identifiable by their large triangular head, narrow neck, and wide body with a pronounced ridge running down the middle of their backs. Rattlesnakes are also less shiny than most other snakes in the County. Although rattlesnakes can be seen year-round in Southern California, most sightings occur from April to June.

What should you do if you hear or see a rattlesnake?

You will likely hear the rattle before you see the snake. If you hear a rattle, this is the rattlesnake’s way of warning an intruder (you) of its presence. Pay attention to this sign, and be even more aware of your surroundings by staying on the trail, where it is easiest to identify a rattlesnake.

To prevent being bitten, the best advice is to leave the snake alone. Most bites occur when a person tries to pick up, tease, or kill a snake. If you give snakes an escape route, they’ll avoid you rather than strike.

If you are bitten, it is important to remember to:

  1. Stay calm
  2. Immobilize the bitten extremity - DO NOT apply a bandage or ice, and do not try to cut or suck out the venom
  3. Wash the skin - soap and water works best, or an antiseptic wipe
  4. Remove any jewelry or tight-fitting clothing, in case of swelling
  5. Call for help - call 911 to get medical attention as soon as possible; if you have to find a phone, walk at a relaxed pace

Safety is a priority at County Parks. When you use your best common sense, it is easy to stay safe around rattlesnakes whether you are on a trail, out camping, or even in your own backyard. Thank you for your cooperation as we work to balance recreation with the preservation of species that define San Diego.

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