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Rattlesnake encounters spike amid prolonged warm weather

Heavy rains in past years and warm weather drawing rattlesnakes out of hibernation earlier, experts say
84 reports of venomizations this year for rattlesnake-related bites are more than all of 2013
Experts remind people to keep a safe distance from rattlesnakes

As if Angelenos didn't have enough to worry about as above-normal temperatures and tinder-dry landscapes produce extreme fire danger, experts on Tuesday warned that the warm weather has led to greater exposure to rattlesnakes.

The reasons are twofold: the combination of heavier rains several years ago and prolonged periods of warmer-than-usual weather could lead to greater numbers of the venomous snakes, while at the same time, hot, drought-like conditions are drawing them out of hibernation earlier than usual, experts said.

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FOR THE RECORD:

May 13: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Cyrus Rangan as "she." He is a man.

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Already, the effects are being felt.

The state has recorded 84 venomizations this year compared with 82 for all of 2013, officials said.

"If you see a rattlesnake, don't try to pick it up, don't try to move it somewhere else, don't try to do something heroic with the snake," said Cyrus Rangan, assistant medical director for the California Poison Control System. "Don't even get close to take a picture either because when you get too close to a snake, that's when they think about biting you." 

The L.A. Basin is home to multiple species of snakes with the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake the most common, said Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo, where officials held a news conference Tuesday.

Recchio said the Southern Pacific is one of the most venomous rattlesnakes. 

Rattlesnakes are shy creatures that rattle as a defensive warning, and officials said the public would do well to heed the sound.

The venom of a rattlesnake attacks the tissue beneath the skin and if left untreated can lead to amputations. Rangan said the most common bites occur on the hands and feet.  

He reminded people to not submerge rattlesnake wounds in water, or attempt to drain the venom -- efforts that have proved futile. The best snake-bite kit, he added, is a cellphone.

"We get aggressive about emergency response because the venom digests tissue under the skin," Rangan said. "Get to the hospital as soon as possible." 

Symptoms of snake bites include tingling, numbness, swelling and pain near the bite, marked by where the fang penetrates the skin. Treatments for snake bites can require one to four days in the hospital, officials said.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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