Rattlers in the Ranch


by Roberta Murphy

Rattlers in Rancho Santa Fe
Rattlers in the Ranch

Our son Eric has an adventurous girlfriend living in Rancho Santa Fe who has few fears of any creature. Not long ago, her younger brother came into the home screaming about a rattlesnake on the grounds.

RaShelle Garton-Wright jumped into her Ugg boots,  grabbed her camera, a piece of plastic pipe and ran down the path. There, in all its colored glory, was a three-plus-foot rattlesnake slithering through the iceplant.

RaShelle and Eric

She and her brother tried to follow it with the pipe, hoping to hold it in place until San Diego Animal Control could ensnare the snake and move it to a more remote habitat–as they had done before when a large rattler was found near their home last summer.

Though beautiful, this appears to be a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, a venomous and potentially dangerous reptile that is more properly known as Crotalus Oreganus Helleri. It is not an endangered species and is likely far more dangerous to children and pets who might unwittingly frighten the snake and precipitate an attack.

The California Dept of Fish and Game offers the following advice when in snake country, which includes–but is not limited to– homes and land in Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos, Vista, Escondido and other inland areas:

The dos and don’ts in snake country–especially with rattlers:

First, know that rattlesnakes are not confined to rural areas. They have been found near urban areas, in river or lakeside parks, and at golf courses. Be aware that startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively. There are several safety measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of startling a rattlesnake.

• Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots. (Would RaShelle’s Uggs work?)

• 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.

San Diego real estate and homes are generally safe from dangerous wild creatures, but better to be safe than sorry!