Caution urged in East Bay parks following rattlesnake bite

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By Bay City News Service

A rattlesnake bite of a hiker Monday on Mission Peak east of Fremont prompted officials with the East Bay Regional Park District to issue a statement today about safety around rattlesnakes in the parks.

"We just want the public to be aware," park district spokeswoman Carol Johnson said. "We just want to make sure everyone's safe."

A 47-year-old San Jose man was bitten at about 1 p.m. Monday on the top of Mission Peak.

The bite left him is serious condition and he was flown in a California Highway Patrol helicopter to Washington Hospital in Fremont. Johnson did not have an update on his condition today.

Park district officials are urging visitors to be careful during spring and summer when snakes are more active. Rattlesnakes are especially active in warmer weather and a warm body allows rattlesnakes to move more
quickly to catch prey, parks officials said.

Caution is also advised because a rattlesnake may not warn its victim by shaking its rattle. But if they do, the rattle will sound like sizzling bacon, park officials said.

Visitors are warned to avoid trying to capture or harm a snake since all wild animals in the parks are protected by law.

Visitors are encouraged to get in touch with park staff if a rattlesnake is seen. If bitten, parks officials urge people to consider it serious.

"Any rattlesnake bite is considered a medical emergency," Johnson said.

The man Monday had his wife with him, according to Johnson.

"Always being with a friend or buddy is preferable in case something happens and someone needs to go for help," she said.

Snakebite victims are encouraged to stay calm and send someone to call 911. Victims should lie down and keep the limb that was bitten lower than the heart.

Victims should avoid wasting precious time on tourniquets, "cutting and sucking," or snakebite kits.

Anyone who is alone should walk calmly to the nearest source of help such as another person, park employee or should call 911 as soon as possible.

Anyone bitten by another kind of snake should wash the wound with soap and water or an antiseptic and get medical attention.

Visitors unsure of what kind of bite they received should look for two puncture marks in most cases. In rare cases, rattlesnakes will leave one mark.

Anyone bitten by a rattlesnake will feel intense burning pain.

Park district employees have received six rattlesnake-related reports in the past seven days.

A dog was bitten over the weekend at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore. Additionally, rattlesnakes were seen recently in a park in Walnut Creek, a park in Pittsburg and at the park district's police headquarters at
Lake Chabot Regional Park.

Snakebites, however, are rare in East Bay parks, according to park district officials.

"Snakes don't really want to have anything to do with humans," Johnson said.

Park staff won't kill a snake that has bitten a visitor, but they may capture it and relocate it, especially if the visitor was bitten in a more public area of the park such as a picnic area.

A rattlesnake can be recognized by its triangular head that is slightly wider than its neck, a thick body with dull skin and black and white bands on its tail. The tip of the tail has a rattle.

Most snakes are harmless to pets and humans, but snakes will bite in self-defense, park officials said.