by Carlos E. Castañeda

THE GEYSERS, Lake County (CBS SF) — Dozens of rattlesnakes found in residential neighborhoods and captured were set to be released into the wild Friday in Northern California so they could prepare for a winter hibernation.

Sixty rattlesnakes were to be let out all at once at a spot located in the hills near The Geysers close to the border of Sonoma and Lake Counties.

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All of them were captured by Sonoma County Reptile Rescue, a non-profit sanctuary based in Sebastopol.

Director Al Wolf said the snakes were collected from people’s homes and yards and are among the 250 rattlesnakes captured and released since the spring.

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The rescue group’s website says rattlesnakes are one of nature’s forms of rodent control, and play a vital role in the balance of the environment.

Wolf said the snakes should be respected, but not feared. “If you get bit by a rattlesnake, you’re not going to like it, but you’re not going to die because all the hospitals in the area have rattlesnake anti-venom,” he said.

Unloading the snakes at once won’t have any negative impact on the immediate environment, said Wolf. “The area out here is so vast for rattlesnakes that 60 is just a drop in the bucket.”

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Increase in rattlesnake sightings are usually attributed to warmer weather as they are generally inactive during winter.