Rattlesnakes are always around in the regional parks and other East Bay open spaces, but lately people have reported seeing more of them on the trails. So now is as good a time as any for the annual rattlesnake advisory.
I've seen two rattlers myself in recent weeks: one on Black Diamond Way at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, another on Lower Big Springs Trail at Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley.
People have also encountered the reptiles at Briones Regional Park near Martinez, on the trail around Contra Loma Reservoir in Antioch, and no doubt in other parks as well.
This isn't surprising, because now's the time of year when female rattlesnakes give birth. Unlike other snakes, which lay eggs, rattlesnakes bear their young live.
There's no cause for alarm, though. Rattlesnake bites are extremely rare. More often than not, the bites result from attempts to handle the snake.
The good news, relatively speaking, is that the bite, though painful, is very seldom fatal. However, the victim needs to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Don't try the cut-and-suck first aid treatment. It has long been discredited as doing much more harm than good. Call 911 instead.
Here's some more rattlesnake lore, mostly courtesy of park district naturalists who have been studying the reptiles for years:
From snakes to wildflowers: There are two wildflower walks scheduled this weekend at Black Diamond Mines. The first is a two-mile hilly hike through the Chaparral Loop from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, led by naturalist Bob Kanagaki.
The second is a more rugged six-mile hike with lots of ups and downs, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, April 28, led by naturalist Eddie Willis.
Bob's hike is for ages 7 and older, Eddie's is for 10 and older. Both hikes are free, though Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is attended.
For either hike, meet at the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. Rain cancels. For information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.
Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.