Rattlesnakes are native to this area and are active spring through fall in California. In warmer weather, you are more likely to encounter rattlesnakes under rocks, ledges, or logs. In cooler weather, watch out for them on top of rocks and logs. In the event that you are bitten, remain calm and have someone hike out for help. Do not attempt to cut a bite or suck out venom. Seek professional medical assistance.

If a rattlesnake senses your approach and has an avenue of escape, it will leave the area, probably before you ever see it. Startling a snake is the way most people get bitten. If the snake cannot escape, it will flatten its body and head, and rattle its tail to give you warning. Should you encounter a rattlesnake, or hear its warning rattle, stand still until you have located the snake, then walk away from it calmly. Rattlesnakes cannot crawl as fast as you can walk, and you should have no trouble leaving the area. Though rattlesnakes can strike in a split second, they can only strike within a distance of one to two and a half feet.

The following tips can help you avoid snakes, and protect yourself:

  • Wear hiking boots.
  • Stay on paths and trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds, and brush where snakes may hide.
  • Look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks, or firewood.
  • Check carefully around stumps or logs before sitting down.
  • Step on logs and rocks—not over them.
  • When climbing, look before placing your hands. Snakes climb walls, trees, and rocks.
  • Keep hands and feet out of areas you can’t see, such as holes, or piles of rocks or brush.
  • Consider using a walking stick when hiking. If you encounter a snake it may strike the stick instead of you.
  • Walk heavily, snakes may sense the ground vibration from your footsteps and leave the area.
  • Baby rattlesnakes are poisonous and do bite.
  • Don’t handle a dead snake; if it was recently killed you can still be bitten as a result of a reflex response.
  • Don’t tease a snake.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
  • Give rattlesnakes the right-of-way.

Visitor and staff safety is a priority for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Snakes play an essential role in natural systems on the preserves, and because of the risk to visitors, visitors should not kill or attempt to move snakes of any type. If you are concerned about a snake you have encountered on District land, please call the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District at (650) 691-1200, and staff will carefully review the situation to determine whether relocation or other action should be taken.

For more information, download the brochure Snakes in Open Space