Environment & Science

Rattlesnakes attack 2 women in San Bernardino National Forest — here's how to avoid snake bites

File: A northern Pacific rattlesnake.
File: A northern Pacific rattlesnake.
Natalie McNear/Flickr Creative Commons

Rattlesnakes attacked two women this week in the San Bernardino National Forest, Cal Fire Riverside spokesman Lucas Spelman told KPCC. The women, who were bitten in the Idyllwild area of Riverside County, had to be transported to the hospital.

It's common for people to encounter rattlesnakes in that area at this time of year, Spelman said.

"We get snakes coming out as soon as the temperatures start to rise. So at this time of the year, this is the time that everyone starts getting bit. A lot of times, people are cleaning up their yards, reaching into areas that they can't see — like picking weeds or behind rocks — walking on even logs, or in an area in the back of your house where you might be tending to some of the new spring growth," Spelman said.

There are a lot of snake bites at the beginning of the season, Spelman said, with them lessening as summer continues and into the fall.

What should I do if I'm bitten?

If you don't know what kind of snake it is, Spelman said to treat it like you've been bitten by a venomous snake.

You should also remove any type of constricting jewelry and any clothing with long sleeves, such as a jacket, Spelman said. That's to help make sure that if you start to swell, firefighters and those at the hospital will still be able to take care of you without clothing or accessories getting in the way.

How can I avoid rattlesnakes while hiking?

Spelman's advice:

Rattlesnakes sometimes won't use their rattles if they think they're going to be hurt — they'll just strike out, Spelman said.

"Snakes are afraid of us, and they don't aggressively go after us in most areas. And so, really, the snake wants to get away from you, and if it is in an area, if you just back up, it will go most of the time away from you," Spelman said.

Also, if a snake has to be killed, you should still be careful. A dead snake's body can still strike and leave venom, Spelman said. The snake needs to be secured, so don't let anyone around it. That includes animals — especially dogs — which might be curious of what it is.