Question: For years I have been told there are no rattlesnakes in the Lake Tahoe area because the altitude is too high. But recently I've read articles that say rattlesnakes can live up to 10,000 feet. I am worried because I play golf and often end up in the rough, which means looking for my golf ball in tall grass and brush. Are there rattlesnakes in the Lake Tahoe basin that I need to watch out for? Nick R.
Answer: The Department of Fish and Game doesn't track occurrences of common snake species, but the DFG's Betsy Bolster says you can encounter a rattlesnake in the Lake Tahoe region. The Great Basin rattlesnake is widespread and can occur up to the timberline. The Great Basin Rattlesnake is found in the far northeastern corner of California and a small region east of the Sierra Nevadas near Mono Lake. Its range continues outside the state to into eastern Oregon, and east to western Utah, southern Idaho and most of Nevada. Its preferred habitat includes rocky hillsides, barren flats, sagebrush, grassy plains and agricultural areas.
You should know though, that rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive, and will usually only strike when threatened or provoked. Given room they will likely retreat. Most snake bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally touched by someone walking or climbing. The California Poison Control Center says there are more than 800 rattlesnake bites each year, but only one to two deaths. About 25 percent of the bites are "dry," meaning no venom was injected.