Los Angeles Zoo experts share springtime snake safety tips

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Although nights are still cool and Southland residents can still expect the occasional shower, winter is finally over. Human beings may not notice, but Los Angeles reptiles sure have, the Los Angeles Zoo and California Poison Control System warned Wednesday.

Springtime means rattlesnakes in Southern California, as they wake up from hibernation. Usually associated with large mammals such as bears, snakes also hibernate during winter.

“As spring brings in warmer weather, Angelenos can expect to see an increase of rattlesnake and other animal sightings,” Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo, said. “If you encounter a rattlesnake in nature, it’s best to observe them from a distance, but it can be dangerous if you try to disturb them.”

According to a Wednesday briefing by L.A. Zoo biologists, one of the most dangerous snakes Angelenos can expect to see is the Southern Pacific rattlesnake, native to the Los Angeles region. This venomous pit viper is known for biting people.

Bites can be best avoided by staying careful and alert while hiking, according to experts. Staying on trails and using walking sticks can also help. Dogs should be kept leashed and away from dens. And above all, rattlesnakes should never be provoked.

In 1988 two doctors at the University of Southern California Medical Center analyzed 227 cases of venomous snakebite, covering more than a decade, and found that 44 percent occurred during accidental contact, such as stepping on the animal. More than 55 percent, however, resulted from the victim’s grabbing or handling the creatures, and in 28 percent of these cases, the victims were intoxicated.

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