PALM DESERT, Calif. -- -

"At 6:00 in the morning, I get a picture on my phone that says something's wrong with the dog, and his face is all swollen," Gerianne Wolfs describes her pup, Huckleberry -- Huck for short.

"He's been bit by a rattlesnake," she explains.

Wolfs says Huck lives up to his name. At their home up Highway 74, he's active, playful, and a bit too mischievous.

"Apparently the snake had got in my yard, Huck stuck his head where he shouldn't belong, and the snake got him," Wolfs says. "Caught him inside his eye, and on his nose. And they said had it been another 24 hours, we wouldn'tve been able to save him."

Springtime temperatures call people, and snakes, looking for some sun, to the outdoors.

"Definitely the season for rattlesnakes," says Danielle Ortiz from the National Monument Visitor Center up Highway 74 in Palm Desert. "They're good out here, you can enjoy a good show seeing them out. Just be careful."

Sure, it's easy to find snakes near the mountainous areas of our desert, but you should also watch out in fairly active places.
You may see rattlesnakes, or their look-a-likes, on hiking trails, at parks, or golf courses. There is a rule of thumb if you see one slither by.

Ortiz explains, "When you see a snake, no matter what it is, just take a couple steps back, three big steps, and then once they see you, they'll usually get out of your way."
 
There are a couple species of rattlesnake to watch out for.

"Here in Palm Desert, we do see Red Diamondback rattlesnakes, where in the East Valley you're going to run into the West Diamondback," says "snake expert" Bill Powers.

At least, that is what his colleagues call him at The Living Desert. He was the man everyone pointed me to when our crew arrived. He was ready with two trash cans -- full of venomous and non-venomous snakes.

One, the Red Diamondback Rattlesnake (mentioned above). It was brown, grey, and had the distinctive rattle.

But here's how you can tell if a snake is poisonous, rather than a harmless snake like a Wild Gopher, or King snake.

"Look for the head. [Venomous] will be more heart-shaped, with a thin neck," advises Powers."They're not as shiny, but that's not always a good indicator. Black and white on the tail is one of the best things."

As for Huckleberry, he's learned his lesson.

"We've seen a snake on the trail before with him," Wolfs says. "He's backed the other two dogs off, alerted us the snake was there, and didn't go anywhere near it."

Wolfs and her husband have modified their home, taking all the necessary precautions as listed by the California Fish and Wildlife's Guides for Prevention.

"We changed out firewood pile to where it sits up, there's nothing hiding underneath it," Wolfs goes on, "we keep all bushes trimmed away from the house."

The Wolfs also added rabbit fencing -- small-meshed fencing that rises about three feet off the ground -- around the perimeter of their home.

"It's a way of life," she laughs "I've moved into their neighborhood, so to speak, I leave them alone, they leave me alone."

For more information on rattlesnakes visit The Living Desert, located on 47900 Portola Ave. in Palm Desert, or The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center at 51500 State Highway 74, just at the base of the mountain.

You can also visit The Department of Fish and Game's website, at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/snake.html.

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