By Julie Thunder
We aren’t the only ones happy to see the sunshine! Snakes love the warmer weather too and have been seen all around town. Three different types of snake call Encinitas home: gopher snake, rattlesnake, and king snake. All of these are beneficial to our environment and only the rattler is venomous. Each of these types of snakes is both predator and prey. They feed on mice and rats, which helps to keeps the rodent population in check, and they are food for hawks, osprey, and herons.
Rattlesnakes are the only dangerous snakes in San Diego County. They are easily distinguished from king and gopher snakes: (1) they have a rattle on the end of their tail; (2) their head is wider than their body; and, (3) their eyes are cat-eye shaped. Although their venom is poisonous, a rattlesnake bite is no longer a death sentence. With today’s advanced medicines most victims recover fully.
A gopher snake can look like a rattlesnake in color but their heads are smaller than their body and they have no rattle. If they feel threatened, they can mimic a rattler and sometimes people mistake them for the more dangerous snake (see video below about distinguishing the two), which may be the reason gopher snakes get killed frequently.
Recently, two gopher snakes were found dead along the new Rail Trail in Cardiff (photo). Chris Swanner, who has been walking the rail corridor for years, found the snake carcasses a few days apart. He could see that each of their heads had been smashed with large rocks that were found nearby. This was infuriating to Chris and others to see such callous disregard for a harmless animal.
“Before the trail was built, I saw egrets, ducks, squirrels, rabbits, owls, and snakes all the time. Now, I just see people. I hope all the newcomers will be more respectful of wildlife if they see it. ”Chris Swanner
King snakes are easy to distinguish from the other two types as they have colored bands throughout the length of their body. They are shy and will quickly leave the area once they are aware of a larger animal nearby.
- Snakes grow continuously longer until death.
- Snakes are cold-blooded and hibernate during the coldest part of winter and in summer they seek shade in the hottest time of day.
- Snakes can feel even the slightest of movements through vibrations in the ground.
- Snakes smell with their tongue, which is 10,000 times more sensitive than our own nose.
From the web: Woman unknowingly picks up baby rattler in the dark.