Malibu’s season of the snake

Malibu residents have been encountering rattlesnakes by the handful in recent weeks, including a gardener at the home of actress Sally Fields who was bit on the hand by a baby rattler last Wednesday, according to KTLA news.

Bo Slyapich, known as the rattlesnake wrangler, was making a follow-up call Tuesday this week to the home to make sure it was clear of any dangerous snakes. This was after shooting wrapped on an episode of “Without a Trace” at Calamigos Ranch, where he was making sure the brush and trails were clear of rattlers for a Warner Brothers crew.

Slyapich, who grew up in the hills of Malibu and has been catching snakes since the age of 5, said: “I have never seen a season start like this and I have been dealing with snakes for 20 years.”

“That was the third incident on a human already this year,” Slyapich said of the gardener being bit. “I have heard of three adults being bit and one child, and I am getting at least one call a day about pets who have been bit.”

The season for snakes generally runs from spring until the first frost of November, Slyapich said, but this is by far the most active start he has ever seen. He blames the early snake season on too much rain and not enough: “We had a lot of rain two and three winters ago, and then none this past winter,” Slyapich said. “Those two rainy winters made the brush and seeds flourish, so the rat and mouse population flourished and on and on up the food chain. The average clutch [brood] of snakes is four to 10, but a healthy female snake can have 15 to 20.

“The reason there are more snakes than ever is we are killing off or running out their natural predators,” he continued. “The red tail hawks, owls, raccoons, possums, road runners, bobcats and other predators that eat baby snakes are being run out by man, whose homes, landscaping, swimming pools, garages and grottos make a perfect habitat for snakes. Snakes love us. We make their lives easier.”

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What to know about rattlers

Snakes are cold-blooded creatures so ambient temperature controls their movements, Slyapich explained. When people are shedding coats and sweaters the snakes come out, and when the temperature hits 85 or 90 degrees and people go into their air-conditioned homes, the snakes want to join them, because they don’t like it that hot either. In Malibu there are many situations where snakes are found in houses, because people keep their doors and windows open to let in the sea breeze, Slyapich said. The snakes see that as a welcome mat. Same with garages. A garage is just a cool cave to them.

The only rattlesnake that is native to Malibu is the Southern Pacific rattler. Not all rattlesnakes will rattle before they strike and even within a species some snakes rattle more than others, so you won’t always get a warning there is a rattlesnake in the area, or that it is angry, Slyapich said.

“A while back two gardeners chased a snake for two hours at a house near Neptune’s Net, and it never rattled once.”

As far as landscaping around homes, Slyapich recommends cutting back anything that is encroaching on paths so you can see where your feet are going. If there are plants in pots hanging down to the ground, trim them up 8 or 10 inches so you can see the ground. “Don’t give the snakes a place to hide,” he said.

Bird feeders do not attract snakes but they attract the animals snakes like to eat. An adult should go out and check sandboxes, pool toys and pool mats that have been left on the lawn to dry before letting young children going out to play.

When hiking, Slyapich recommends choosing trails where you can see where your feet are going at all times-rattlesnakes hide in the brush waiting for prey. Southern Pacific rattlers are not aggressive, he said, and won’t come after a person, but don’t attempt to step over one. Go around them, he advised.

Although any bite from a rattlesnake is dangerous, Slyapich said a bite from a baby rattler delivers a great deal more venom, because they don’t have the control that adult snakes do. But any bite, whether from an adult or young snake, is dangerous and can be deadly.

If struck by a rattler, Slyapich said not to cut the bite or suck on it or do electric shock. “That is all Hollywood advice. The thing to do is call 911 or EMS right away.”

He recommends taking off shoes, socks, watches, rings, bracelets, jewelry or anything else that might constrict limbs because the body will swell as it reacts to the toxins. Put the limb or body part that was bit in a neutral position, below your heart, Slyapich said. If you are bit on the leg, sit on two chairs with your legs straight out.

“Then wait for the ambulance or helicopter to show up,” he said. “And also, don’t bother trying to catch the snake to identify it. The anti-venom that is standard with all EMT is good for all snakes on the Pacific Coast. Don’t waste time chasing the snake or risking getting bit again.”

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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