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CA Press: Sleepy snakes to slither soon

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Posted by W von Papinešu on April 20, 2003 at 11:48:46:

DAILY PRESS (Victorville, California) 19 April 03 Sleepy snakes to slither soon (Emily Berg)
Victorville: As Easter passes and High Desert residents prepare for warm weather and long evenings, they should remain wary of slithering threat, snake experts warned Friday.
The High Desert is home to 24 snake species, four of which are poisonous rattlesnakes including the infamous Mojave green.
Dr. Sean Bush, an emergency physician who specializes in venomous bites and stings at Loma Linda University Medical Center, treats many of the High Desert's snake bite victims.
He treated four patients in March but none from the High Desert, Bush said.
Bush expects the wet weather to lead to a more active snake season. The winter rains produce more plants, which means more food for rodents and more rodents means more snakes.
"I think there is probably going to be more bites than usual," he said.
Bush has treated most of the areas snake bite victims because there was a shortage of the new antivenin, CroFab. While there is still a national shortage, Southern California hospitals are better stocked, he said.
Local High Desert hospital officials didn't return calls Friday confirming if they had the antivenin on hand.
While some native reptiles such as tortoises have declined in population over the years, rattlesnakes seem to be holding their own, said Wayne Fowlie, a local herpetologist from Victorville.
"They're very successful," he said. "Rattlesnakes don't seem to be any less common in good habitat than in the past."
Fowlie reminds anyone walking in undeveloped open areas where there is a lot of brush to be aware that they are in rattlesnake country, he said.
The snakes will come out, especially during mild weather. As soon as the scorching temperatures kick in, they'll only come out at night, Fowlie said.
"They can strike easily in complete darkness. You can get bit by one and maybe not even see it," Fowlie said.
Rattlesnakes don't usually last in urban areas. They're usually found and destroyed or removed to less populated areas. The local species can live up to 30 years in captivity and could easily live up to 20 years in the wild, Fowlie said.
However, they will only be where there is food to hunt.
"If there is a population of rodents, they're likely to be around," he said.
Vicki Telford of Adelanto has handled and studied snakes in the area since 1975. The babies will probably come out of hibernation first because they're looking for food, she said.
The babies are often more dangerous because they don't have rattles to warn people and they can emit more poison in their bite because of their inexperience, Telford said.
"The snakes are aggressive. If a person teases them or goes to play with them they are definitely aggressive," she said.
Rattlesnakes are distinguishable by their blunt tails with rattles and triangular heads that grow wider toward the neck area, Telford said. Mojave greens have the triangular head and are green in color with thick black and white rings at the end of its tail near the rattles.
Both experts warned residents not to destroy non-dangerous snakes that are good for the local environment. They keep the rodent population under control and some, such as the King snake, kill rattlers, Telford said.

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