Q: Is it true that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous than adults?
A: No, that is one of the many myths about rattlesnakes, says California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Coordinator Laura Patterson. The larger the rattlesnake, the more venom it will deliver when it strikes. Rattlesnakes are shy by nature and will only bite as a last resort when they perceive a serious threat to their lives. Typically, a rattlesnake’s first defensive strategy will be to move away from a perceived threat. If cornered or their escape route is cut off, they will seek cover if available. If the threat continues, they usually coil up and rattle as a warning, although some individual rattlesnakes don’t rattle. If the threat continues, they may strike. However, an estimated 25 to 50 percent of bites from rattlesnakes are dry, meaning they choose not to envenomate. It takes the average rattlesnake three weeks to replenish expended venom. Because their venom is intended for immobilizing prey, envenomating a threat they will not eat means they cannot eat for several days to weeks. This is why rattlesnakes do everything they can to avoid unnecessarily using their venom.
Rattlesnakes can occur almost everywhere in California except alpine areas above tree lines on tall mountains. They can also swim. In most areas, peak rattlesnake activity occurs during spring and summer shortly after they emerge from winter dens. California is home to nearly 50 native snake species, including seven species of rattlesnake. One rattlesnake species, the red diamond rattlesnake, is a species of special concern.
Visit CDFW’s rattlesnake page for tips on rattlesnake safety.
Q: What do bobcats eat?
A: Bobcats are mostly carnivorous. Their diet consists of a variety of animals, such as rabbits, rodents, wood rats, porcupines, raccoons, deer fawns, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. Bobcats will stalk or ambush their prey from the ground, trees, logs or rocks. They sometimes consume plant materials such as grass. Bobcats can also opportunistically hunt pets or small livestock such as chickens if those animals are not kept in a secure enclosure, especially at night.
Bobcats can be found in diverse habitats throughout most of California. Suitable habitat includes chaparral vegetation, brushy stages of low and mid-elevation conifer, oak, pinyon-juniper woodlands and forests, and riparian and desert environments. Bobcats prefer areas with dense brush cover and will use cavities in rocks, snags logs, and stumps for cover and denning. They are generally most active at night and during twilight hours, though it is not unusual to see them during daytime.
For more information visit CDFW’s bobcat page.
Q: Is the Second Edition of the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California available for purchase?
A: No, but it is available digitally, free of charge, by visiting Atlas of the Biodiversity of California. Printed copies will be available in public and academic libraries in the coming months. They are not available for purchase, however. Making the Atlas available primarily in digital format is better for the environment by helping to conserve precious resources and reducing printing costs.
The newly updated second edition of the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California covers topics ranging from California’s remarkable geography to how scientists measure biodiversity, and includes articles by conservation experts, more than 100 nature photographs, full-color maps and illustrations by artist Dugald Stermer. We hope it’s a tremendously enjoyable resource for anyone interested in the complexity and uniqueness of our state’s treasured habitats.
If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.