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Placer's rattlers back biting in Year of Snake

Rattlesnakes getting high level of sightings in the foothills
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The Auburn area’s latest painful reminder that the foothills are rattlesnake country occurred Saturday night in Cool.

A woman walking downstairs in her home’s garage felt a sudden, sharp pain hit her foot. A small rattlesnake, about six inches long and a year old, struck out from the darkness, sending her to the intensive care unit of a local hospital and her husband to the phone to call Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal in Auburn.

Owner Len Ramirez was soon on the property to find the snake and remove it for a humane relocation away from humans.

Ramirez said Monday that the search for the snake turned out to be easier than most. When the husband opened the garage door, the light revealed the familiar diamond shaped markings under a carpet shampooer.

“It’s the year of the snake,” Ramirez said, pointing out that the Chinese zodiac designation is timely, given the high levels of rattlesnake sightings in the area so far this calendar year.

Ramirez said that reports are up and it may just be that more people have learned about his removal service.

But he’s also seeing signs indicating snakes are plentiful this year.

“We went from winter into spring like conditions,” Ramirez said. “People are now out and about and discovering snakes that have been hibernating all winter. We’re off to a good start.”

So far, the Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal team, which includes Len’s brother, Bruce, has fetched rattlesnakes in houses, on golf courses and in yards. There was even one found coiled up near a child’s Tonka truck.

Ramirez said it could be that the warmer weather and lack of moisture is moving rodents and other typical rattlesnake prey closer to human-inhabited areas for food and water.

With rattlesnakes making a return, residents can call their local fire department. Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi said that the department does respond to reports but that most of the time, the snake has cleared out of the area. If it is found, it is typically already cornered and dangerous. Aware of safety issues, firefighters use a long-handled shovel to kill the snake, he said.

“A majority of the time, the snake is usually gone or it’s stuck in someone’s garage and cornered and angry,” D’Ambrogi said. “That’s not a good thing.”

Ramirez said that he doesn’t expect residents or emergency personnel to capture rattlers alive.

But a call to Ramirez’s service will result in a live capture and eventual relocation in the wild. Ramirez dons thick boots and uses handmade equipment to collar the rattler before depositing the snake in a bucket riddled with air holes.

On Monday, Ramirez’ collection from the past few days included the snake from the Cool house, as well as another more than three feet long that had been captured at an El Dorado Hills location. The snakes have a venomous bite that requires a 911 call and timely medical care to avoid serious problems, he said.

Ramirez will also provide pointers to customers on how to avoid a return visit by a rattler.

Ramirez said that one of the best pieces of advice he gives out is for residents to make sure that crawl spaces and doors have tight seals to avoid having snakes - which can slither through small areas - from making an unwanted entrance.

People with children should have a walk-through of outdoor play areas to ensure no snakes are present before youngsters enter. Dogs can be vaccinated and there’s also a new equine vaccination against snake venom, he said.

Shady areas are popular snake resting spots and should be inspected before entering to sit or stand, Ramirez said. Runners entering a shaded area should remove their sunglasses to get a clearer picture of what lies ahead, he said.