Marin County rattlesnake bite reminds residents of reptile's dangers

When a resident on Iron Springs Road near Fairfax was bitten by a rattlesnake last week as temperatures soared, it served as a reminder that the potentially deadly reptile is once again active in Marin.

"It is the weather, the heat that brings them out," said Melanie Piazza, director of animal care at WildCare in San Rafael. "They need the warmth to regulate their body temperatures, so that's why you sometimes see them out on rocks and trails."

Officials declined to describe the circumstances of last week's incident, handled by paramedics who treated the woman and took her to the hospital. But they noted that the warm spring is also the time the northern Pacific rattlesnake's food sources — rats, mice, voles and other creatures — are active. Rattlers tend to hide in tall grass, rock and wood piles and they can be found throughout the county, from Novato to Mount Tamalpais and West Marin, according to WildCare.

While it's always a bit frightening to see a rattlesnake, the species serves a crucial role in the environment, said WildCare spokeswoman Alison Hermance.

"They are an important part of the ecosystem because they control rodents," she said. "And they give you a warning when they rattle. If you just leave them alone they go on their way."

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