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 comes from Katie Colbert, the East Bay Regional Park District naturalist who has studied these 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 further 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 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 2 feet. When it sensed people around, it coiled up defensively, but neither rattled nor struck out. Its behavior was really quite docile.
A park ranger used a pair of specially designed, looong-handled snake tongs to grasp the rattler, put it in a 5-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. 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.
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, that 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, and there's some excellent information about rattlesnakes at the California Fish and Wildlife Department website, www.dfg.ca.gov.
PLEASANTON bats: 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. 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.
ALL THINGS INSECT: Bees and other insects will be the focus of a couple of programs Sunday 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 nature area. Join him to help turn over logs and use a net to catch and release the quarry. The program is designed 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.
TAKE A HIKE: The Wednesday Walkers will search for late-spring wildflowers at Tilden Regional Park during a moderately strenuous 5-mile walk Wednesday.
For the free hike, meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Tilden steam train lot, which is located on Lomas Cantadas off Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Oakland. For details, call 510-544-3282 or email email@example.com.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.