The rattlesnake is etched into the lore and lifestyle of the American Landscape. The species is the largest venomous snake in North America, the leading contributor to snake bite injuries, and when the viper is threatened uses a distinctive rattle to warn passersby of danger.
Rattlesnake safety includes sticking to established trails in the backcountry, avoiding tall vegetation, and wearing pants and sturdy shoes. For most, the worries of a rattlesnake encounter are left behind on the trail. But, for residents of California’s Northern Reaches, our lifestyle is defined by the wildland-urban interface. When our homes and offices lie in the thick of rattlesnake territory, the apex predator will wander into human habitation.
Yesterday, September 15, 2022, Hopland resident Erica Franklin was loading her truck for errands. She used her remote start function to start the vehicle as she was prepping it for departure. She placed some items in the truck’s bed initially. As she went to put her family’s puppy in the front seat, she was shocked and alarmed when she saw a rattlesnake coiled on the middle console, where a driver might rest their elbow.
The rattlesnake was extricated and dispatched and Franklin was left nervous to drive her car and clueless as to how the snake got into the vehicle itself. Inside the vehicle, she found that the snake had actually shed its skin while occupying the vehicle. A second skin was found around Franklin’s home, located approximately five miles up Highway 175, indicating rattlesnake activity in the area.
Franklin told us that many had suggested that the snake had somehow traveled on an item she transported in the vehicle. She disagreed with that saying “I didn’t put anything in there.” She told us that all the vehicle’s windows were rolled up and all doors were secured.
A cursory Google search of “rattlesnake in a vehicle” suggests the occurrence of snakes getting into vehicles whether, through windows, doors, or via the engine bay are rare. If a rattler was going to nestle itself in a vehicle, the more common location is the engine bay itself.
“I know they are here and I understand that I’m in their territory but the fact it was in my truck is beyond me,” Franklin reflected.
For the public at large, this specific circumstance is rare, but residents of the rural north can take note of Franklin’s observational instincts. Many in the hustle and bustle do not take the time to complete even a simple scan of their environment. Because Franklin did so, she avoided a potentially dangerous encounter with a rattlesnake.