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The Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

By G. Patrick Daubert, MD, FACMT

UCCE Master Gardeners of El Dorado County

This article appeared in the 5-29-24 Mountain Democrat

Spring is here, although we experienced late snow in April, and aside from all the wonderful sprouting plants and trees in bloom, it also means our local snakes are making an appearance. This includes our native rattlesnake, the northern Pacific rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus, less commonly referred to as the Western rattlesnake. Our native rattlesnake ranges from Santa Barbara County to British Columbia, Canada.

There is a wide scope of colors and patterns in the northern Pacific rattlesnake with colors typically matching the environment. Snakes may be olive-green, gray, brown, golden, reddish brown, yellowish, or tan. Young are born without a rattle but rather a single button. A new rattle segment is added each time the skin is shed, which can be more than one time per year. Therefore, the number of rattles is not descriptive of the age of the snake. The northern Pacific rattlesnake is primarily nocturnal and crepuscular (active in twilight) during periods of midsummer heat. They may be active during daylight when the temperature is more moderate. Diet consists of birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, and small mammals, including mice, rats, rabbits, hares, and ground squirrels.

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