Golfing with Rattlesnakes in Lake Tahoe

Rattlesnakes may occur in the Lake Tahoe area. So, when your golf ball strays off the fairway, keep your eyes and ears open when searching through the rough as snakes may be lurking in the surrounding tall grasses and brush (DFG photo).

Question: For years I was always told there are no rattlesnakes in the Lake Tahoe area because the altitude was too high. However, recently I’ve read many articles that say rattlesnakes can live as high as 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 and surrounding areas that I need to be watching out for? (Nick R.)

Answer: The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) doesn’t track occurrences of common snake species, but according to DFG Statewide Coordinator for Conservation of Amphibians and Reptiles Betsy Bolster, don’t discount the possibility of encountering a rattlesnake in the Lake Tahoe area. The Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is widespread and can occur up to the timberline. According to references, the Great Basin Rattlesnake (subspecies, Crotalus oreganus lutosus) is found in California in the far northeastern corner and in a small region east of the Sierra Nevadas near the Mono Lake area. Its range continues outside the state to the north into eastern Oregon, and east to western Utah, southern Idaho, most of Nevada and barely into extreme northwestern Arizona. 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 deliberately 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 majority of snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.

The California Poison Control Center notes that rattlesnakes account for more than 800 bites each year, and only one to two deaths. About 25 percent of the bites are “dry,” meaning no venom was injected, but the bites still require medical treatment.

Given this, since your golf game, like mine, includes some time spent in the rough, I’d keep my eyes and ears open when searching for a golf ball away from the fairway. It might be worth it to hit the pro shop for some extra golf balls rather than taking chances on whether or not you are in rattlesnake habitat. FORE!

(References: (Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Robert C. Stebbins, 1985). Californiaherps.com. www.californiaherps.com/snakes/pages/c.o.lutosus.html)


Knife rules
Question: I will be going camping next week at a place called Hell Hole Reservoir near Lake Tahoe and I need to know if I may bring a jeep survival knife with me. The knife has a 15-inch blade with a sheath. I know you are not allowed to carry a knife more than three inches long in California, but I need to know if there is an exception for camping. (Mitch L.)

Answer: There is no Fish and Game law regarding your knife and I am not aware of any law regarding knives with blades that are longer than three inches.

According to DFG Capt. Phil Nelms, “Generally, prohibited weapons are listed in California Penal Code, section 16590, and special provisions regarding knives and similar weapons begin at section 20200. You may want to pay special attention to sections 21310 and 16470 regarding concealed dirks and daggers, but knives with fixed blades are generally not prohibited as long as they are carried openly (not concealed).”

To check all the laws regarding knives online, please go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html. In addition, you may want to contact your local police or sheriff’s department for more information regarding dangerous weapons.


Tagging abalone with rubber bands?
Question: After reading a recent answer to a diver who asked how to attach his abalone tag to a rare abalone he’d taken that had no siphon holes where he could affix the tag, I have a question. Some members of my dive club and I assisted DFG with the abalone creel survey last year. We noticed that some of the pickers we surveyed used rubber bands to attach the tags to the abalone. They just laid the tag on the shell and put the rubber band all the way around the abalone to hold the tag on. There were no holes in the tags. Is this a legal way to attach the tag? (Curt H.)

Answer: No, this is not legal. The law requires the tag be “… securely fastened to the shell of the abalone. To affix the tag, a “zip tie,” string, line or other suitable material shall be passed through a siphon hole on the abalone shell and through the tag at the location specified on the abalone tag.” (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 29.16 (b)(3)).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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