By PATRICIA SIMPSON
Trail guide and naturalist Mark K. James had the privilege of coming upon a gorgeous long-nosed snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei) at Mission Trails on a “cloudy, misty” early afternoon in May. This is one of those rare chance encounters in the park, where the observer was probably glad to have his camera in hand and the nonvenomous reptile was in full sight. He was able to post his photo on iNaturalist here: bit.ly/2LIEWOG.
This species has only been observed once before on iNaturalist in 2018. The beautiful tricolored reptile is nocturnal and is most often spotted on evening walks in the eastern regions of the county. Most of the time, the snake spends its time underground in a burrow, resting before the next outing when it will mainly hunt smaller reptiles and amphibians. The snake can be recognized by its pale yellowish skin, adorned by red and black patches that almost look like banding.
When you come across a snake, remember to enjoy the encounter from a safe distance. Most species of snakes at Mission Trails are nonvenomous, but rattlesnakes are seen most often since they enjoy sunning themselves in open places.
In the month of May, nine different species of snakes were observed in the park on iNaturalist. Almost 60% of the observations were rattlesnakes. The Western rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) is seen most often, but the red diamond rattlesnake (Crotalus ruber) is also commonly spotted.
Make sure to be aware, stay on the trails and keep your pet on a leash. Here is a site with good tips regarding rattlesnake encounters: bit.ly/2YmM7OB.
— Patricia Simpson is a trail guide at Mission Trails Regional Park.