Re: Mojave in the winter: rattlesnakes
Hi there, newbie/lurker here and I'll introduce myself in another thread some other time, but I figured I'd chime in with some Mojave and rattler info. My husband, our dog and I spend most of our free time out camping, and the Mojave desert as well as the Mojave National Preserve are some of our favorite spots. We have seen many rattlers over the years - as late in the year as early December and as early as the end of January. There might have been some around in between on unseasonably sunny warm days, but we might have just not seen them....
Our dog is our four-legged child and comes everywhere with us, off leash whenever possible.
He has both the rattlesnake avoidance training and the vaccination, and so far I have felt very comfortable in rattlesnake territory.
First some details about the training: our dog goes through it every year to keep it fresh on his mind, and he responds very well to it. He won't even get near an old shed skin tangled up in some bush.
The interesting part here is that every rattlesnake species has a distinctively different smell. When we do the training in the Antelope Valley (north of LA) they usually use the Western Diamondback, which is the most common in that area. We ask for additional training with Mojave Greens and Southern Pacifics, just to make sure our dog recognizes a variety.
Secondly, the vaccination. Not only do we do a lot of hiking & camping, but we also do sheepherding with our dog. That requires us to be out in the field, concentrating on other things than watching where we step. Over the years, I have seen and heard of at least 5 dogs that got bit by a rattlesnake after being vaccinated. All dogs survived with little to no complications, not even requiring the antivenin.
Of course both of these precautions do not guarantee that your dog will stay away from the snakes, or that he will survive for sure, but my peace of mind is greatly improved knowing that my dog is somewhat protected. I have seen him flip over backwards in panic mode just picking up the scent of a rattler.
Hope this info helps a little....