Talking about rattlesnakes in a previous column, I misspoke about the season when they give birth. It's more likely to be in the summer or fall than in the spring, as a reader pointed out.

This from Katie Colbert, the East Bay Regional Park District naturalist who has studied the reptiles for many years:

"People are seeing the rattlesnakes now because they have come out of their winter dormancy (as have people) and are moving around doing their thing -- probably mostly looking for food, but the males might also be ranging a little farther afield looking for females. The weather has also been the right temperature for daytime activity (for all of us!)"

The other day, picnickers at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch I found a rattlesnake in the grass at the picnic area next to the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road.

Initially, the snake was stretched out full length, about two feet. When it sensed people around, it coiled up defensively, but neither rattled nor struck out. It's behavior was really very docile.

A park ranger used a pair of specially designed, long-handled snake tongs to grasp the rattler, put it in a five-gallon plastic bucket, and transport it to an undeveloped, off-trail area for release.

The incident indicates that it's wise to be aware of what's around you in the outdoors, even on lawns, in picnic areas and other developed facilities.


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Regional Park staffers relocate rattlesnakes rather than killing them, because the snakes are part of the natural environment. The snakes prey on rodents and other small animals. They are preyed upon in turn by larger animals such as coyotes and raptors.

There's some excellent information about rattlesnakes at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website at www.dfg.ca.gov.

Contact Ned MacKay at nedmackay@comcast.net.

Dogs can be especially at risk for rattlesnake bites because their natural curiosity leads them to run right up to the snake and start sniffing.

Another reader emailed me that dogs can be vaccinated in advance of a potential rattlesnake bite.

I checked with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which directed me to its website, which has a wealth of information on the topic. Reviews are mixed.

The school does not currently recommend the vaccine because of insufficient information about its effectiveness, which can vary with the species of rattlesnake, size of the dog, reaction to the vaccine, amount of venom injected, etc.

In any case, the school recommends that the dog be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible, whether it has been vaccinated or not.

You can check out the data for yourself at www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu.

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    Naturalist Eddie Willis will bid farewell to spring at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve with a two- to three-mile walk from 9:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, May 19, in search of late-season wildflowers.

    The hike is free, designed for ages 8 and older. Meet Eddie at the parking lot at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. Black Diamond Mines has a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when the kiosk is staffed. For more information, call 888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

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    Eddie also is leading a 20-mile bike ride along the flat, paved Marsh Creek Regional Trail from Brentwood to the new Big Break Visitor Center and back. It's from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, June 9, for ages 10 and older. Bring your own bicycle and helmet.

    The ride is free, but registration is required. For registration and information, call 888-327-2757. Select option 2 and refer to program 2468.

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    Bats are fascinating animals, and you can help add to our knowledge of them by joining naturalist Cat Taylor on a bat watch from 7 to 10:45 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton.

    The group will use bat-detecting instrumentation to observe a potential bat colony or feeding site.

    The program is free, but registration is required. Call 888-327-2757, select option 2, and refer to program 2511.

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    Bees and other insects will be the focus of a couple of programs Sunday, May 19, at Tilden Nature Area in Berkeley.

    From 10:30 a.m. to noon, naturalist James Wilson will host a meet-and-greet with local bees, while talking about the importance of a healthy bee population.

    Then from 2 to 4 p.m., James will lead an insect safari through the Tilden Nature Area. Join him to help turn over logs and use a net to catch and release the quarry. The program is for ages 6 and older.

    Both programs are free. Meet at Tilden's Environmental Education Center, located at the north end of Central Park Drive. For information, call 510-544-2233.

    Ned MacKay writes about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.