LOS ANGELES—It’s early spring. Mother nature is just waking up. Among the beautiful valley sunflowers and mustard grass lurks the venomous Western Rattlesnake.  Yup, living in a city of 4 million people we have rattlesnakes. When I first moved to LA there were snakes sunning themselves on my cement deck, or I’d be walking down the street and see a snake. I’d stand stark still until I’d convinced myself the snake was dead. I’d come back 5 minutes later, it was gone.  Not dead at all – just playing possum.

As a result of this year’s significant rainfall, winter has brought back old challenges.  It has changed the predator/prey cycle.  The bumper population of rats, mice and squirrels feasting on the new plants and flowers are food for snakes, coyotes and bobcats.  Are you surprised to hear that they are all carnivores?

What to do when you encounter a snake? Did you hear the rattle of the tail, or the hiss?  That’s the easiest clue.  Babies may not yet have rattles, so look for a diamond shaped head. If you see a snake with a cross-hatched dark and white skin pattern, be cautious.  While it might not be a rattlesnake don’t risk being wrong.

While snakes don’t have ears and are technically deaf, they do “feel” the sound vibrations.  Back up, stomp on the ground, make noise.  All these wild animals are weary of humans and dogs.  Don’t crowd them – resist the urge “to get a better look”. Creeping upon them is threatening.

If you’re out hiking, bring walking sticks. Leave the flip flops at home.  Wear high top hiking boots. If you’re a serious hiker get “snake gators”.

If you find snakes and any of their favorite prey around your house, DO NOT PUT out rat poison (rodenticides).  It’s really an inhumane death – the animal’s blood can’t coagulate, and death comes slowly.  Instead contact CLAWla.org [link] and get an “owl box.”  The rodents will know a predator is around and will likely retreat to a safer haven.  The snakes will follow their prey.