Climate change influencing poisonous snake bites in California

News

There’s a popular belief that poisonous snake bites occur more often during drought.

Scientists recently put this belief to a test. A new study examined 20 years of documented bites in California correlating weather patterns and climate changes.

This includes more than 5-thousand snake bites reported to California Poison Control.

Millerton state recreation area ranger supervisor Steve Barber reminds visitors, drought or no drought, there are a lot of snakes.

“There’s rattlesnakes. I mean, you are in California. Central California. There’s rattlesnakes here. They’re in the park. We don’t do anything to keep them out of the park. This is their home. You need to be careful.”

“Quite a few visitors during the summer season out here that have seen a rattlesnake — typically in their campsite, out on the trail, places like that.
They’re common. They’re native to the area. They’re part of the natural condition. And they’re protected in the park.”

In an article published in the journal clinical toxicology, scientists found climate change does influence incidents of venomous snakebites in California.

But results show after drought bites actually decrease.
Bites increase in wet periods.

If you’re outdoors and you happen to come across a rattlesnake, stop. Stay calm. Keep facing the snake but slowly move backward and away.

Barber says, “Rattlesnakes are not vicious or aggressive by nature. They’re there just to hunt their prey and go about their business. They’re only going to attack if they feel like they’re being threatened or provoked. By attack I mean they’re first going to warn you by rattling their tail and if they feel they need to defend themselves they will stricke. And if they bite there’s a pretty good chance the bite will include venom which is poisonous to humans.”

“If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by a rattlesnake, the first thing you want to do is call 9-1-1.  911 at the park will get the park rangers out to your location and we’ll treat you best we can in the field, just try to make you comfortable and regulate your breathing and call an ambulance and get you to the nearest facility.”

https://doi.org/10.1080/15563650.2018.1508690

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