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PSA: What to Do if You See a Snake on the Landmarks

Two-striped Garter Snake 3 Black Star

With spring comes warmer weather, blossoming flowers and increased activity amongst people and wildlife alike on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Not only does this mean more sightings of birds, bees and butterflies, but it also means more sightings of snakes. The start of the spring season also marks the start of snake season in Orange County and if you plan on getting out on the trails, it’s essential to understand what to do if you encounter a snake to ensure the safety of yourself and the wildlife.

Encountering a snake on a trail can undoubtedly be a heart-pounding experience, however, it’s important to remember that most snakes are harmless. Remaining cautious during this time of year is a good standard practice when hiking in areas where snakes may be present, such as rocky terrain, sunny spots or near water sources. Be sure to scan ahead while on trails, as snakes like to sunbathe to regulate body temperature. If you do spot a snake, the best course of action is to remain calm and maintain a safe distance. Give the snake space to move freely by stepping back and allowing it time to slither away. It’s crucial to avoid shooing, provoking or attempting to handle the snake, as this can lead to a bite. While rare, if a snake bites you or your pet, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

While most snakes in Orange County pose little risk to humans or pets, there is one notorious snake that Californians are familiar with – the Western Diamondback rattlesnake. Although they are venomous and can be very dangerous, they typically only bite in self-defense. Fortunately, these snakes will also give a warning rattle before striking if they feel threatened. If you hear a rattle while on a trail, it’s a clear sign to back away.

Western diamondback rattlesnake encounter with IRC staff.
Western diamondback rattlesnake encounter with IRC staff.

Dangerous or not, it’s important to recognize that all snakes play a crucial role in our natural habitats. Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC) is committed to ensuring their safety in the wild. With over 20 snake species found in Orange County, learning to identify venomous versus non-venomous snakes and educating yourself about snake behavior may help reduce the risk of snake bites and alleviate fears of encountering one while exploring the Landmarks.

Stay safe and have fun on the trails!