SAN DIEGO -- Rattlesnakes are slithering into public view throughout the county in greater numbers than in previous years.
Since Jan. 1, the county Department of Animal Services reports 78 emergency calls about rattlesnakes -- three times as many as the same period last year.
A mild winter and then several heat spells are drawing the snakes out of their winter dens before their usual spring arrival, according to Dawn Danielson, director of the Department of Animal Services.
Several tips: Keep your dog on a leash when walking in snake territory, don't get distracted by your cellphone, and clean away woodpiles from your backyard. Also, discourage mice and rats from taking up residence on your property.
If you spot a rattlesnake, watch it "from a safe distance" and call either the Department of Animal Services or the animal control agency in your city, said Dan DeSousa, deputy director of the Department of Animal Services.
And for snake enthusiasts, rest easy: The department's policy is not to kill a rattler but capture it for relocation to an area where it doesn't pose a risk to the public.