PALM DESERT, Calif. - Spring's start is still more than a month away and reptiles are already coming out of hibernation thanks to our warm winter. People enjoying the outdoors need to be ready.
Rattlesnakes usually hibernate until April and account for more than 800 bites each year, according to the California Poison Control Center.
Experts say in our area they're making their presence known several weeks early.
"It's kind of unexpected for February to be seeing these kinds of critters and people aren't expecting it," said Peter Siminski, director of conservation and education at the Living Desert.
You could see the rattlers actively slithering across your favorite hiking trail or golf course before April, so be aware.
"Watch where you put your feet and your hands, and use a flashlight when you're hiking on a warm night," said Siminski.
The Living Desert even got a nice surprise this week. Its resident tortoise, Mojave Maxine, emerged from her burrow sooner than expected.
"It's a little early. She came out with a lot of vigor and she was already eating," said Siminski.
Siminski warns, if a cold front hits, the endangered tortoise will disappear again and that may be a problem.
"If she gets a belly full and it isn't warm enough for her to digest, it might cause a bit of digestive upset," he said.
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