The Puente Hills Preserve is home
to an intricate array of native plants, mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles, among
others, all of whom play a vital role in supporting the health of the ecosystem.
While visiting the Preserve’s beautiful natural scenery and observing its
abundant wildlife, there is a group of southern Californian natives that can be
particularly exciting to meet; the rattlesnakes. If you have visited the hills
recently, you may have come across signs at a trailhead warning about the
dangers of this reptile. However, there are many aspects of this snake that
make it a special and integral part of the Puente Hills wildlife community.
In all, there are 32 known species of rattlesnakes;
7 of which can be found in California. The Puente Hills are home to two of such
species; the western rattlesnake (Crotalus
and the red diamond rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber). Both species can often
be observed slithering among trailside grasses, stretched out on a trail or
sunbathing on rock outcrops, and can grow to be over 3 feet long. The western
rattlesnake is distinguished by tan and dark-brown blotches, a triangular head
with pit heat-sensors on both sides, and two internasals at the tip of its head.
The red diamond rattlesnake, as its name suggests, displays reddish to tan
diamond-shaped scales with black-and-white bands along its tail. The coloration
of rattlesnakes helps them to effectively camouflage themselves in the
environment and stay well-hidden from predators.
|Red Diamond Rattlesnake|
When these snakes shed their
skin, each shedding produces a new rattle at the end of their tails. These
rattles are definitive characteristics of the snake and can be heard as a
warning signal to potential threats or predators. Rattlesnakes will typically
give a short rattle as a warning, which will grow to a steady loud rattle if
the snake feels threatened. If you hear a rattlesnake, do not move until you
locate the precise location of the snake, back away slowly, and keep a safe
distance. Rattlesnakes rarely strike if they are unprovoked. Never attempt to pick up a rattlesnake!
all pit vipers, rattlesnakes are equipped with an exceptional set of sensory
organs that help them locate prey. These include pits at the tip of their nose
to sense thermal radiation from warm-blooded animals, eyes adapted to nocturnal
use, and a keen sense of smell from both nostrils and sensory tissues on their
Once a prey animal is located, rattlesnakes use their quick striking
ability and fangs to inject powerful hemotoxic venoms. The venom travels
through the blood of the prey, causing intense swelling, pain, and tissue
damage. The main prey of Puente Hills rattlers are rabbits, squirrels, rats,
birds, lizards, and some insects. Though rattlesnakes are effective predators themselves,
they are also heavily preyed upon by hawks, crows, foxes, raccoons, and
coyotes. Thus, the ecological significance of rattlesnakes is large as they
help to regulate rodent populations and provide food for other native Puente
rattlesnakes are dangerous, the likelihood of being bit is very low. If you see
a snake, stay calm and slowly move away. Remember to stay on designated trails
within the Preserve and scan the trail ahead. If a snake is directly in the
path, keeping a safe distance and stomping your feet is usually enough to coax
the rattlesnake to sun in a new spot. In the case of a snakebite, do not panic!
Remove all rings, watches, and anything else in the area of the wound that may
restrict blood flow. Remain calm and call 911 immediately. If treated promptly,
rattlesnake bites are almost never fatal. You are more likely to be struck by
lightning than to be bit by a rattlesnake.
when on the trails, keep an eye out for this important part of the Puente Hills
ecosystem and watch your step!
HELP KEEP COYOTES WILD
Coyotes help the
environment. They help keep populations of rodents and other small mammals under
control. They also feed on raccoons, birds, insects, fruits/vegetables, human
garbage, outdoor pet food and small pets left unprotected (even in your backyard).
Attacks on humans are very rare. When
coyotes become accustomed to humans they can lose their shyness and become more
demanding. An average adult coyote is about
35 pounds and will be intimidated by people. While they may stop and observe,
they will eventually run. Coyotes can
be seen any time of day but are typically most active at night; some have even
become year round residents of urban areas.
They also become very active and visible during the pup-rearing season
(May – July).
Associating urban areas
with food. To coexist, it is important that
coyotes do not associate urban areas with food.
Coyotes are naturally fearful of humans, however they readily lose that
fear when people intentionally (or unintentionally) provide food/water or
shelter for them, or otherwise do not try to deter them from visiting.
Eliminating sources that attract coyotes can go a long way in addressing the
· Do not feed coyotes and other
· Make sure outside garbage is
secured and fallen fruit from trees and bird seed from bird feeders is picked
· Do not feed your pets outdoors or leave pet food and
water outdoors unattended, especially at night.
· Do not allow pets to roam free outside (including in your
backyard), especially at night; make sure to keep your dog on a leash during
· Keep your landscaping trimmed and open so that they don’t
provide hiding places for coyotes or other wildlife.
· Make sure that fencing around your yard is secure –six-foot
tall and buried six inches deep is recommended to prevent digging underneath
If approached by a coyote or if one is in
· "Haze” them. Stand
tall, yell, wave your arms, blow a whistle or horn, bang pots or pans together,
spray water or throw rocks.
· While they may
stop and observe, they will eventually run.
· Do not run away
or turn your back on them. Stand your ground and then back slowly away while practicing
· If you feel your
personal safety is immediately at risk, call 911.
Informative links and contacts:
City of Whittier: http://www.cityofwhittier.org/depts/clerk/coyotes.asp
California Department of Fish and Wildlife: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/
Police Department: 562-567-9200 (non-emergency)
LA County Animal Control: 562-940-6898 (dead animal pickup)
If you’re interested in citizen-science and birding then
this is the weekend for you! Started by
Cornell University and the National Audubon Society, the Great Backyard Bird
Count is scheduled for February 14-17,
2014. Citizens are being asked to
collect data on wild birds and submit them online. It can be as simple as counting birds for at
least 15 minutes in your backyard for one day or participate by visiting
numerous locations over the 4 days, it’s up to you.
In 2013, there were participants in 111 countries that
counted over 33 million birds! These data can assist researchers in answering
questions related to how climate change can affect bird populations, timing of
migrations over years, and differences in bird diversity in urban, rural and
natural areas, to name a few.
I know I’ll be participating….will you?