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Father, daughter bitten by rattlesnake at Garland Park

By CHRIS COUNTS

Published: November 4, 2011

A FATHER and daughter recently discovered the hard way that you don’t mess with rattlesnakes.

The pair was walking on the Lupine Loop Trail in Garland Ranch Regional Park last week when the daughter chased what she believed was a lizard — but was actually a rattlesnake.

“The snake was in a rocky area and tucked down into a crevice,” reported Tim Jensen, planning and conservation manager for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, which manages Garland Park.

The daughter, Jensen explained, moved one of her hands between several rocks and was bitten by the poisonous snake. “She couldn’t even see where she was sticking her hand,” Jensen said.

And then the father managed to do the same thing moments later.

The rattlesnake — which measured about a foot in length — was just a youngster.

The father and the daughter were hospitalized as a result of their bites but are feeling better. “All indications are that they are both doing well,” park district general manager Jim Sulentich reported.

Like much of California, Garland Park has long been home to rattlesnakes. But incidents involving snakes and people are quite rare. “Nobody on our staff I’ve talked with has any knowledge of a person being bitten at Garland Park,” Sulentich said.

Like most animals, rattlesnakes appear to have no interest in interacting with people. “They’re only interested in something to eat, and we’re way too big for them,” he explained.

If you encounter a rattlesnake on a trail, it’s best to avoid a confrontation.

“Give it a wide berth,” he suggested. “Any snake deserves a lot of respect. You don’t want to take a chance.”

And whatever you do, avoid poking around in rocky outcroppings. “A herpetologist will tell you never to stick your hand somewhere you can’t see,” he said.

Dogs are particularly vulnerable to snake bites because they don’t understand the danger of rattlesnakes and tend to be curious, so Sulentich encouraged dog owners to be careful when bringing their pets along on a hike.

Sulentich also encouraged people to not hike alone, and to carry a cell phone in case of an accident or mishap. “If you are ever in a situation where you’re injured, don’t hesitate to call 911,” he added.

While park officials see little reason to sound an alarm over rattlesnakes, they are concerned about a more recent arrival to Carmel Valley: Sudden Oak Death. The museum at Garland Park is hosting two events about the subject this weekend.

Matteo Garbelotto, a professor of pathology and mycology at UC Berkeley, will talk Friday, Nov. 4, at 5 p.m. about the results of a Sudden Oak Death survey that was conducted earlier this year. The following day at 10 a.m., Garbelotto will lead a free workshop that will show the public how to identify Sudden Oak Death and how to help keep it from spreading. Both events are free.