25 rattlesnakes caught on private property last week

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Better Wildlife Control owner Tracy Phillipi said he has captured 25 rattlesnakes on residents’ property in the Idyllwild-Pine Cove area this week.

He said one was a speckled and the others all Southern Pacifics, one of the most dangerously venomous snakes to humans and other animals in California.

Even more frightening is that seven of the snakes were captured inside homes. Phillipi said they made their way over thresholds. “They only need a half inch,” he said.

Asked what people can do to avoid being bitten by a snake, he said, “Look for sticks and twigs on the ground because if you’re doing that, you’re going to see a snake.”

The best thing to do to keep snakes out of your yard is to stack wood piles up off the ground from 6 inches to a foot, he said. And abate your property because they like to hide in ground cover.

Phillipi said he takes the live snakes to Dr. William K. Hayes, professor of biology at Loma Linda University, who collects the venom. The snakes are released back into the wild.

“For many snakes and lizards, the size of their home range (the area they use over the course of a year) is inversely related to resource availability,” said Mark Fisher, assistant director of Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Station in Palm Desert.

“In other words, during dry years with low food supplies, they need to travel farther to secure food than during wet years when food is plentiful. However, they need to be relatively healthy to breed: If they are too thin and attempt to breed then they will not have enough energy or water to provide to developing eggs or embryos,” said Fisher, a naturalist and herpetologist. “This could be fatal to both offspring and mother. To avoid this, females will not enter a reproductive state during drought years. If females are not reproductive, then they are not secreting pheromone trails and males will not be actively tracking females.

“Because this year’s precipitation approached normal levels, snakes have found sufficient food to allow them to become reproductive. Thus we are seeing many more males out searching for females than we have seen in the past few years. This should decrease later in the summer as their priority shifts from mating to food.”

On Sunday, Phillipi caught another six rattlesnakes and two before the Independence Day Parade on Monday. He also said he has caught 68 since March 20, his birthday.

Two years ago, a few local dogs suffered from Southern Pacific rattlesnake bites. One survived and at least two succumbed to the venom. A rattlesnake avoidance training class for dogs is scheduled for Sunday, July 17, in Idyllwild.

“The rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs can save their lives,” said Linda A. McCaughin, a local volunteer who brought the training to the Hill nine years ago. “It is the only way I know of to teach dogs to avoid rattlesnakes in every situation, including when dogs are by themselves and encounter a rattlesnake. Most dogs are taken from their mothers too early to learn it from them …”

“After my son’s Doberman-mix, Tracer, avoided a coiled rattlesnake on the May Valley Trail, I became a believer.”

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