The northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) is native to this area and is active spring through fall in California. Rattlesnakes occur throughout Midpen preserves and can be found under or near rocks, ledges, logs, and vegetation. They are often seen sunning themselves on roads and trails as well. This is the only snake species in the Bay Area that has venom that is dangerous to humans. 

If a rattlesnake senses your approach, it will often either remain hidden or leave the area if it has an avenue of escape, probably before you ever see it. If the snake cannot escape, it may coil its body, flatten its head, and possibly rattle its tail to give you warning.

Not all rattlesnakes will rattle, so you should always use caution. Should you encounter a rattlesnake or hear a warning rattle, stand still until you have located the snake then walk away from it calmly. A rattlesnake can only strike about one third to one half its body length. Stay safe, give it space!

Safety Tips

  • Stay on paths and trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds, brush and logs or rocky areas where rattlesnakes may be hidden.
  • Keep hands and feet out of areas you can’t see, such as holes, or piles of rocks or brush.
  • Look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks, or firewood.
  • Step on logs and rocks, not over them. When climbing, look before placing your hands. 
  • Check carefully before sitting down.
  • Wear tall sturdy hiking boots.
  • 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.
  • All rattlesnakes are venomous and can bite.
  • Don’t touch, tease, or pick up a snake.
  • Don’t handle a dead snake; if it was recently killed you can still be bitten as a result of a reflex response.
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
  • Keep dogs on leash when hiking.
  • Give rattlesnakes the right-of-way. Stay safe, give it space!
  • If you are bitten by a rattlesnake remain calm, call 911 and seek professional medical assistance.
photo of rattlesnake in the grass
Northern Pacific rattlesnake in grass (Steve Weiss)

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.

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