Warm and sunny weather has finally made its way to Crystal Cove State Park, and it’s the perfect time to hit the trails. Our reptilian residents have also been getting out to soak up the sunshine, and prime snake spotting season is just beginning. While the thought of running into a snake on trail can be a frightening prospect for some, most snake species in Crystal Cove are harmless, and none will bother humans unless provoked.

Some of the most common species found in the park are California Kingsnakes, Pacific Gopher Snakes, Striped Racers, and Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are the only venomous species of snake in Crystal Cove State Park, and can be distinguished from other non-venomous snakes by their diamond shaped head, thicker body, and of course a rattle at the end of their tail.

With mild weather year-round, there is a chance of encountering snakes whenever you visit Crystal Cove. Snakes are however much more active in the warmer months from April – October, and snake sightings in the park have been picking up every day now. Because snakes are cold blooded, they often enter a state called brumation in the winter time, similar to hibernation. Their metabolism slows down and they become less active, making them much less likely to be seen out and about.

While venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes can pose some threat to humans, it’s important to remember that they are an important part of the ecosystem at Crystal Cove. They act as nature’s pest control, keeping small mammal populations in check, and provide a food source for higher predators such as bobcats and birds of prey.

So, how can you safely share the park with snakes? The number one thing you can do to avoid a negative encounter is to stay on trail so you can see upcoming snakes well in advance. If you see a snake up ahead sunning itself on the trail, simply give it time to escape before continuing on. If you leave them alone, they will leave you alone. Rattlesnakes are much more likely to flee than attack if given ample opportunity to get away.

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