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Are Rattlesnakes in the Coachella Valley Out of Hibernation?

Are Rattlesnakes in the Coachella Valley Out of Hibernation?

CoachellaValley.com 's very own Jill Hayes had the scariest encounter of her life while hiking in Palm Springs. By Scott Alvarez / CoachellaValley.com

Jill Hayes was out hiking when she suddenly came across a rattlesnake. While the California Poison Control Center suggests that most rattlesnake encounters in california occur between the months of April and October, it is not very rare for a rattlesnake to ‘pop out’ every once in awhile during the winter months. Many people believe that rattlesnakes act the same as other desert reptiles and go into hibernation during the winter, but this is not the case. Rattlesnakes actually undergo brumation during the winter months. Unlike hibernation, brumation is a state in which the reptile is simply inactive.
Rattlesnake you might find in the desert.

Rattlesnake you might find in the desert.

Here are some quick Do's and Don'ts from Wildlife.ca.gov:
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots.
  • When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day.
  • Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step ON logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use.
  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side.
  • Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
  • Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom.
  • Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.
        As Jill explained, “I decided to take a small hike to get some photography time. I didn't want to go far from my home in Palm Springs Sunday afternoon, but wanted to be far from crowds. Mike [Jills Husband] and I decided to travel near the Snow Creek area. We took a dirt road out into desert then parked the jeep and I started my hike (not on any trails ), and I felt safe thinking that the rattlers were in Hibernation (because there my main concern when out exploring during rattler season). I just walked freely through the desert not really being careful. Finally, after taking a few photos of the landscape, I decided to go back to jeep. I decided to take a shortcut and headed down a rocky canyon. I jumped down off a rock and when I hit the ground I instantly heard a sound that sent shivers down my back. It was loud, I must have scared the snake and he sure scared me! I jumped back up that rock so fast and screamed out to Mike. The adrenaline took over my body, so when I recovered from the scare I found a safe spot to video and photograph the snake.  I was extremely lucky that I did not get bit. Thankfully, the snake put on quite a show for me for about 5 minutes”. Here's the video following her initial encounter with the snake:
        In Jill's case, it seems that she stumbled upon a space in which a rattlesnake claimed as its own during its brumation period. While inactive the snake still remains alert to its surroundings. As Jill stated on her Facebook following her encounter, “Yesterday, while out hiking in Palm Springs area, we came across this rattlesnake and it was a close call for me. I didn't see the rattler until I was right next to him and he then started to aggressively rattle at me”. As you can see in the video, this rattlesnake was pretty intimidating, and has many questioning why the snake is out in the middle of winter. I was quick to also ask that same question, but after some research I have come to the conclusion that Jill Hayes simply stumbled upon a lethargic snake that was startled when it heard her hiking through his territory. After watching the video we can see that the snake is coiled up between two rocks and does not scurry away.    
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