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Heat brings out the rattlesnakes

  • Al Wolf of the Sonoma County Reptile Rescue keeps two Northern Pacific rattlesnakes at arms length during a lecture. (Press Democrat file photo)

Humans aren't the only sun-worshippers thrilled to see the arrival of warm summer weather.

The regions's rattlesnakes have come out, too, creeping out of their shady dens to bask in the bright sun and — the females at least - to incubate babies that should begin joining the world over the next several weeks, local reptile experts said.

“We've got females coming out to sun themselves like crazy,” said a delighted Al Wolf, founder and director of the non-profit Sonoma County Reptile Rescue and a dedicated fan of the species.

Wolf and rescue volunteer Bonnie Cromwell, whose got plenty of reptiles in the menagerie of exotic critters she uses to educate local school kids through her Classroom Safari program, said the cool summer delayed the rattlesnakes' usual June emergence by months.

But it's also saved Wolf what he says must be $6,000 or more in gas because so few people have needed his help relocating snakes found on their properties.

“We were getting one, two calls every couple days - which normally we get nine, ten calls a day,” Wolf said.

But with an upswing over the past two weeks, “we're back up to nine or ten a day,” he said.

Like other reptiles and snakes, rattlesnakes are cold-blooded, so they're generally inactive in cold weather.

This year's unseasonably cool summer has done little to stir their appetite for movement, so they're eager to get moving now that the mercury's rising.

“They're probably on the lookout for a mate, and then they're on the move looking for food and probably looking for suitable den sites, as well,” Cromwell said.

The females, which deliver from 11-to-15 offspring at a time, also need the heat to help develop the fetuses, which should make their appearance in two to three weeks, Wolf said.

“Rattlesnakes are a good indicator that you have a healthy environment going on and if people want to kill them, it doesn't make total sense,” Wolf said.

Especially when Wolf will come corral the beasts for free, and relocate them safely.

Snakes found in remote areas, away from people, pets and livestock, could just be left alone, Cromwell said.

“People always want to eradicate and get rid of everything, but when they do a lot of times it will upset the balance of nature, and then you end up with another problem down the road.”

More information is available at www.sonomacountyreptilerescue.com or (707) 829-8152.

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