By Don Ford

PETALUMA (CBS SF) – If you think you’ve seen more snakes lately you are absolutely correct. Wildlife experts say there may be three times as many snakes as normal.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about these days, now snakes. Wildlife officials are warning people to be on the lookout, after an increase in sightings.

“This year, it is absolutely crazy! In the next two, three weeks, we’ll actually see baby rattlesnakes, the newborns for this year,” said Al Wolf, director of Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, in Petaluma. “Usually they are born late August, early September, but we’re going to see them in late June and early July, this year.”

Last February was unusually warm for an unusually extended period. Snakes started breeding months earlier. All across the Bay Area, adult rattlesnakes are out looking for food. One monster-sized rattler was photographed recently on a local golf course eating its prey.

“This is a big, male rattlesnake in this picture, eating a squirrel” said Wolf, looking at the photo.

As for this snake’s bite? “Oh Yeah! He’s venomous and can cause a lot of problems,” said Wolf.

It’s not just golf courses, rattlers are being seen on trails, in parks and occasionally around homes. Most are shy and not aggressive but if you hear the hissing rattle, back away!

“I love rattlesnakes. They are fantastic, great animals” said Wolf.

If a rattler is injured or malnourished, Sonoma County reptile Rescue cares for the animal until released back into the wild every Wednesday.

In some places, you can keep them as pets said Wolf.

“They’re legal as pets, believe it or not, except in certain counties where there’s an ordinance saying you can’t have a venomous snake but, in Sonoma County it’s perfectly legal to have a pet rattlesnake for those who want to do that.”

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