Rattlesnakes percolating from dry Clairemont canyons

Leave 'em alone

Rattlesnake in Tecolote Canyon
  • Rattlesnake in Tecolote Canyon

A few hours ago, Shannon M. of West Clairemont alerted neighbors via NextDoor.com that one of his Mt. Acadia neighbors had found two different rattlesnakes in his back yard within the past 24 hours. A Bay Park resident also shared that she found one in her driveway last Sunday. Last week on Mt. Armet and Mt. Hukee in West Clairemont, a very large rattlesnake was caught by Animal Control.

Bay Park, Tecolote Canyon sightings

In April, my neighbor Paul saw a huge rattlesnake, that he guesstimated to be 15 feet in length, in a neighbor's front yard in Bay Park. Last month, I saw a snake that appeared to be taking a leisurely nap in a bush near my home. In March, I saw what appeared to be a rattlesnake in Tecolote Canyon where I walk my dogs sometimes.

With the drought, more snakes will be making their way out of canyons and open spaces to nearby homes. Because of this, it's important to keep a close eye on pets. Many disappear due to coyotes and snakes coming up from the canyons. A few years ago, my neighbor Sarah was devastated when she lost her cat to the canyon.

Rattlesnake in Tecolote Canyon

Rattlesnake in Tecolote Canyon

Canyons everywhere — North Park, Mira Mesa, Serra Mesa

Besides Tecolote Canyon and Marian Bear Park in Clairemont, there are several other canyon and open spaces in different areas of San Diego including North Park, Mira Mesa, Hillcrest, Balboa Park, University City, Mission Village, Golden Hill, Serra Mesa and other areas in the county.

The neighbor who shared the sighting on NextDoor.com also shared some information on rattlesnakes from the San Diego Natural History Museum. The key points to remember are as follows:

Leave it alone

The most important tip is to leave the snake alone. Only experts can tell by looking if a snake is venomous or not. The majority of snake bites occur when someone tries to capture it. All snakes will bite if they feel threatened. Call the fire department to remove any snakes in or around your home.

Keeping snakes out of your yard

Any substance that might repel snakes is dangerous to children and animals. Anyone that tries to sell you a snake deterrent is just selling you "snake oil." The best deterrent is to keep sheds, woodpiles, tarps, and underbrush cleaned out.

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There are some good points in this article and a couple of errors. The author's best advice is to leave them alone. I hike 5 days a week and see people with off leash dogs running through the brush in Mission Trails, prime targets for a rattler. Adult western pacific rattlesnakes range from 22-55 inches in length, so if someone saw a 15 foot snake it was NOT a rattler. Call San Diego County Animal Control for removing a snake from your property 619-236-2341, NOT the fire department.

TSMasi, excellent points. The Fire Department might give you a medal for your redirect to Animal Control. Also, Stalmer and the Reader might consider republishing this helpful article with your corrections.

Little or large, those snakes are bad actors. Get bitten by one, and it will be an experience you'll never forget, that is if you survive. They are out in the parks, although some parks have far more of them than others. We've seen a number of them, and have heard others rattling that we never saw, in Escondido's Daley Ranch Preserve. Some years ago we lost a cat, and a very nice stray cat he was, that we adopted, to a baby rattler. The spacing of the puncture marks was small, and the playful cat probably thought he was having fun until the fangs went in. Small children, curious as they are, are at particular risk. Oh, and dogs, that keep snuffling into the margins of trails, even when leashed, can find something they weren't looking for.

No need to be paranoid about rattlers; just be aware, pay attention, watch where you put your feet and hands, and watch out for kids and pets.

I've been mountain biking for about 15 years around the San Diego vicinity and the Daley Ranch has by and far the greatest concentration of snakes I have ever encountered. Roasting heat, lots of rocks...it's snake heaven. One of my favorite memories from riding up there occurred on a late-spring day. It was one of the first really hot days heading into summer. We drive into the parking lot, start unloading our bikes, and a guy with only a handful of teeth left comes walking up to us holding a rattlesnake he had just decapitated on one of the trails. "OHHHHH THEY'RE OUT THERE TODAY!!!" he tells us. It was straight out of Deliverance, but, in all honesty, a very nice warning, because there were rattlers all over the place that day! It was nuts. Mission Trails can be really nasty as well on those first scorching hot days of the summer. One time I bailed on a ride in the East Elliot area after seeing five different snakes within the first five minutes of the ride. (I really should mention here that I am not the biggest fan of snakes.) Probably a couple of rattlers plus a trio of large red racers. Those snakes live up to their name...they can haul! The funny thing about the red racers is that I hadn't seen them out there before that day, and I haven't seen them out there since. I have seen a handful of snakes at Florida Canyon, Tecolote Canyon, and Lake Hodges as well, but nothing along the lines of the concentration to be found at Mission Trails or the Daley Ranch. I am always amazed by how many people run the trails and walk dogs at Mission Trails. It's such a minefield of rattlers. You really have to keep a sharp lookout on the trails. If you don't like snakes, avoid these places on the initial 85 degree-plus days of the late spring/early summer. That's when they seem to really come out in force.

There's another spot where rattlers are plentiful, and that's around Discovery Lake in San Marcos. Yeah, it has a paved trail around the lake, and yet I've seen rattlers there, and not small ones at that, out on the blacktop. One time I stopped a couple with a leashed dog who were, oh, three steps short of a diamondback on the trail when I called out to them. You can't imagine the looks on their faces when they finally saw the sucker! Another time I watched one slip into the weeds on the lake side of the trail, and within 30 seconds there was a guy with a leashed dog that was repeatedly plunging into the trailside brush. I warned him, and pointed to the spot. He carefully kept the mutt in the center of the walkway after my warning. Some of those parks have trail surfaces that show snake trails clearly. If the trail is generally straight and slightly wavy, the snake was likely non-venomous. But when you see one that's kinky it was made by a rattler. See a few of those, and it makes you think. Or at least it should.

I was bitten by a small rattlesnake about 30 years ago at, believe it or not, Torrey Pines beach. I was carrying my Boogie Board from the parking lot, just about to go under the highway, when I felt something like a bee sting on the heel of my foot. I looked down and was shocked to see this little snake with definite rattles on its tail. I flagged down some people in the parking lot and got a ride to the hospital. They didn't want to believe me at the Scripps ER until two little dark spots appeared on the bottom of my foot. Apparently I didn't get much venom because I only got a little light headed and tingly, but it makes a good story.

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