Snakes on a base

A rattlesnake slithers in the grass at Beale Air Force Base, California. Rattlesnakes are one of the species of snakes found in California. (Courtesy photo by Bruce S. Reinhardt)

A rattlesnake slithers in the grass at Beale Air Force Base, California. Rattlesnakes are one of the species of snakes found in California. (Courtesy photo by Bruce S. Reinhardt)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California --

Beale is home to a variety of wildlife, from critters to crawlers, some more dangerous than others. The venom of one of the base’s inhabitants can cause serious injuries, even death.

 

“This is rattlesnake country,” said Bruce S. Reinhardt, 9th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES) pollution prevention/solid waste manager. “This is their habitat.”

 

Rattlesnakes are most commonly seen between April and October, and while bites are rare, it is important to be educated of the dangers.

 

To distinguish a rattlesnake from non-venomous snakes living on base, such as the gopher, king or garter snake, look for a triangular-shaped head and rattle at the tip of its tail. 

 

It is also important to know where these snakes live.

 

Snakes are usually found against buildings and in front of doorways, as well as in high brush or grass areas, base trails and running paths.

 

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 25 percent of adult bites have no venom injected, but still require medical treatment.

 

“If there’s any question you’ve been bitten by a snake, go to the hospital,” said Col. Paul E. Gourley, 9th Medical Group commander. “Call 911 immediately.”

 

Beale’s emergency medical system routinely works with Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville, California. Anyone who has been bitten on base will be taken there for proper treatment.

 

“Unfortunately, we do not have the facilities to take care of somebody for a snake bite,” Gourley said. “They need to be in an emergency room setting, followed by an intensive care unit.”

 

According to the California Poison Control Center, rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year with one to two deaths.

 

“Younger rattlesnakes are particularly threatening due to their inability to control their venom,” Reinhardt said.

 

Dead rattlesnakes are also dangerous because their bite reflex remains hours after death, allowing them to inject venom.

 

A rattlesnake’s bite is not only harmful to humans, but to pets as well. If you suspect that your pet has been bit, contact an emergency vet immediately.

 

Untreated venomous bites can cause long term debilitating effects for humans and animals alike.

 

Gourley said it is important to be educated so we can minimize the risk and encourage our children to do the same. If you know and respect your environment, the odds of having a bad encounter with a rattlesnake decrease significantly.

 

“We should not fear the environment we live in,” Gourley said. “Knowledge is the most important thing to stay safe.”

 

If you happen to find a rattlesnake on base, call the CES so they can relocate it. The best way to avoid being bitten is to leave the snake alone, but if it does strike you, remain calm and seek immediate medical treatment.

 

For more information on rattlesnakes, visit California Department of Fish and Wildlife .

 

To report a rattlesnake, call the Civil Engineer Customer Service Desk at 634-2604/2605.