LANCASTER (CBSLA.com) — On a cool, dry day, surrounded by a riot of colorful wildflowers in the mountains and deserts, hikers might not immediately place the telltale sound of a rattle.
Authorities are issuing warnings to watch out for rattlesnakes that have been photographed both in the Angeles National Forest and the California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, where the “superbloom” of poppies has drawn hundreds of visitors in recent weeks.
The California Poppy Reserve posted an overhead image of a Mojave green rattlesnake curled up next to a trail Sunday.
“Mojaves are not aggressive unless provoked, and prefer to stay [camouflaged] if approached,” it said. “We have seen a lot of Mojaves already this season; another reason to stay on the trails!”
Rattlesnakes typically hunt mice, rats and other small animals, killing them with a venomous bite, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The rattle the snake is named for is used to warn potential aggressors to back off or distract prey.
“It’s that time of the year,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a Facebook post Monday. “Please be aware.”
National Park Service Biologist Mark Mendehlson says April is prime rattlesnake season, so its important for hikers to be clothed appropriately. Hiking boots are best, and anyone in the hills should never wear sandals. Wearing pants or jeans would offer some level of protection as well, but following well-worn trails and avoiding tall grasses are also important precautionary measures.
“Good hiking boots and staying on trails is absolutely the best method” to stay safe, he said. “You have to see several feet in front of you.”
Hikers who do happen to hear that bone-chilling rattle should not immediately run.
“I usually jump instinctively,” Mendehlson said. “If your body doesn’t make you jump right away, stop, find out where the snake is, then walk in the opposite direction.”