Snake bite reports spike after mild winter

FRESNO, Calif.

California is currently seeing a spike in the number of rattlesnake bites. Experts think the number of rattlers in the wild may be on the rise.

Experts say dry brush is the perfect place to be startled by a slithering surprise. The best time of day to encounter a snake is in the early evening hours, when people tend to be more active.

Rattlesnakes are dangerous, which is why hikers like Joe Thor take extra precautions when walking around Millerton Lake.

"Just be real careful where you're stepping. Maybe try not to step through the brush or away from the rocks because if they're coiled under the rocks in the shade they might strike out at you," Thor said.

In California the chances of running into a rattler are on the rise. That's because experts say the wet winter two years ago provided prime habitat for snakes.

This year's mild winter means rattlesnakes' prey is more abundant, and more snakes means more snake bites. So far this year California Poison Control has received 184 reports of rattlesnake bites between April and June, up 48 percent from the same time last year.

In the Valley, Fresno County has had 4 bites reported, up from just one in 2011. In Madera 7 people have been bitten so far, compared to none the year before, and in Tulare County 2 people were wounded by rattlesnakes.

The southern part of the state has been hit the hardest, where in San Diego a whopping 41 people were bitten by rattlesnakes, up from just 15 last year.

Experts are now warning everyone to be careful.

"It's very dangerous, it can be considered a life threatening situation. You need to seek immediate help," reptile expert Joe Halvorson said.

Halvorson says if you're out hiking, stick to the trail and wear long boots and pants. If you're home, don't put pet food outside which attracts rodents.

If you do get bitten, get medical attention right away. Bites can be lethal so you shouldn't try to treat it at home.

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