A barefoot boy playing in the backyard of his Valley Springs home on Tuesday was bitten on the foot by a rattlesnake and taken to a hospital for treatment, according to the Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District.
No information on his condition was available Wednesday from the district or from Mark Twain Medical Center in San Andreas, but the California Poison Control System says rattler bites rarely are fatal. More often, they produce painful swelling, bruising, tissue destruction and bleeding problems.
Warm weather brings out the rattlesnakes, which, being ectothermic (cold-blooded), cannot regulate their body temperatures, the National Wildlife Federation website says. "Instead, they rely on their surroundings to provide heat."
"We've been dealing with them for the past month," Calaveras Consolidated firefighter Kyle Harp said Wednesday. Bites happen, he said. "They're just one of those things. We do a lot of rattlesnake removal."
According to Facebook posts, there have been a number of sightings this spring in the Don Pedro Reservoir area of Tuolumne County, and Stanislaus County Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Kevin Wise said areas east of Waterford and Oakdale definitely have a rattler population.
In a news release earlier this month, the state Office of Emergency Services warned people venturing outdoors to be aware of possible rattlesnake encounters. "Rattlesnakes do not always make a rattling sound, so someone can be standing next to a rattlesnake and not even know it. Children need to be carefully supervised outside, especially in wooded and desert areas where snakes tend to live."
Children and pets are most at risk of dying from bites and victims should seek immediate attention at an emergency room, OES said.
Among a list of tips, the office said that after a cold or cool night, the snakes will raise their body temperature by basking in the sun. And to prevent overheating during hot days of spring and summer, they are more active at dawn, dusk or night.
But overall, rattlesnakes are an important part of the ecosystem, the release said, because they eat rodents and are eaten by other predators. "The chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries."
In a Facebook post, Calaveras Consolidated Fire urged people to not walk around barefoot or in flipflops in areas where they may meet rattlers. "When working in the yard, be aware of putting your hands under bushes, under rocks, etc."