Want to enjoy nature without having it bite back?

Leaving rattlesnakes alone a key tip
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Grace Kamphefner remembers very vividly the first time she found a rattlesnake in her yard. She was hosting a birthday party for her then 8-year-old son and he and his guests were running around their Granite Bay yard searching for frogs. One young girl picked up a fake rock hiding a sprinkler head and instead of a four-legged croaker, she found a slithering surprise. Many foothills residents, Kamphefner included, know that living in nature has its perks and pitfalls. As the summer months heat up, so does the possibility of more rattlesnake sightings. Late summer and early fall is typically the birthing season of rattlesnakes and more residents enjoying the scenic outdoors means the two may cross paths. Len Ramirez can testify to the number of rattlesnake encounters in the area. Ramirez, who owns Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal, said his phone is constantly ringing over the summer months with calls of rattlesnakes in yards. Most recently, an Auburn woman called saying she saw a snake in her yard. When Ramirez responded, he ended up finding five under her house. “I go after snakes,” Ramirez said. “I get in ravines. I’m constantly climbing on my belly going under houses and decks.” When it comes to learning about rattlesnakes, Ramirez said the job is never done. “One of the things I have learned the longer I do this, the less I know,” Ramirez said. “How could you really know anything about something that spends most of its time on the ground?” What Ramirez does know is that rattlesnakes are temperature dependant, like certain prey and when it’s really hot outside, he knows it’s going to be a long night of responding to calls. But there’s more to his job than just wrangling in rattlers, he says. “It’s not just about catching snakes,” Ramirez said. “A lot of it is about education and helping create a safe environment.” Some of the tips Ramirez shares with homeowners include installing a quarter-inch mesh guard about a foot into the ground around the bottom of their fence. He said open landscaping is ideal. Low plants and thick shrub areas are places many snakes like to hide. Light contrast is also important to help homeowners spot a snake from a few yards away, Ramirez said. When someone is home and sees a rattlesnake, Ramirez recommends they take a look at what kind of snake it is and which direction it heads to help a wrangler find the location of the snake. He added that homeowners should put pets and children inside. When out on the trials, Scott Liske, Auburn State Recreation Area ranger, recommends a common sense approach to the reptiles. “Get out of their way and definitely don’t try and pick them up,” Liske said. “You’re so much bigger than the snake they’re going to try and get away from you.” Ramirez added that those who encounter snakes should stay away from the “sharp end.” It’s best, he said, to walk around the back of a snake as opposed to the front. “People should be observant when they’re boating or setting up a campground under an oak tree,” Ramirez said. “Snakes typically are in shaded areas or concealed.” He added that when landscaping or working in the yard, it’s good to be aware of where you place your hands and it’s “always a good idea to keep your eyes moving.” Since that first encounter with a rattlesnake on her property about six years ago, Kamphefner has taken precautions every year to keep her family as safe as possible from any more unexpected run-ins. She contracts with Ramirez to do regular inspections of her property. She said almost every time he’s come out to her home he’s found at least one snake, including one Friday afternoon. “It gives me peace of mind knowing that there’s a decreased likelihood of my children or my animals or even me getting hurt,” Kamphefner said. There’s one extra step homeowner’s can take as well, Ramirez added – closing your doors. Also, sealing off any crawl spaces. A few weeks ago he removed a rattlesnake from the entrance hall to an El Dorado Hills home. The couple had opened a door to let their dog out at night and unbeknownst to the owners, a rattlesnake slithered in and spent the night inside the house. “If you live in rattlesnake country,” Ramirez said, “You’ve got to play by the rules.” The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- How can you tell if you’re looking at a poisonous snake? Non-poisonous snakes are more streamlined and thin. Their tails come to a point, according to Len Ramirez, a professional rattlesnake remover. Poisonous snakes tend to have a heavier body and mid-section, their head has a more triangular shape and they have elliptical shaped eyes that look similar to a cat’s eyes. Most non-poisonous snakes have round pupils. ----------