Rattlesnakes coming out early – and likely in big numbers

It’s a noise that’s nearly unmistakable – even if you’ve never heard it: The startling and potentially dangerous rattle of a rattlesnake that’s been encroached upon.

And the noise this year might be louder than ever in the Fresno area.

Rattlesnakes in the central San Joaquin Valley and adjacent foothills are waking up early from hibernation because of warm weather, the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and California Poison Control System warn.

According to the zoo, experts say that 2017 has the potential of a large snake infestation as a result of heavy rains in Northern California.

Female snakes are giving birth to a bumper crop of babies, and California residents should be aware and cautious; even newborn rattlesnakes possess dangerous venom.

Rattlesnakes usually avoid humans, but about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, with 10 to 15 deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For more, check out the USDA’s guidelines for rattlesnake safety.