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It’s rattlesnake season again. With the recent warmer temperatures and sunny afternoons, encounters between local hikers and snakes are becoming more common. Iron Mountain Trail, on the outskirts of Poway, has been host to a number of snake sightings during the past two weeks.

“The month with the most bites tends to be May, when our temperatures get uniformly high enough that snakes are out hunting after their long winter,” says Dr. Richard Clark, director of medical toxicology at UCSD Medical Center.

There is speculation that some of the snakes in San Diego County may have developed more potent venom, and scientists are not sure why.

“We have been seeing more severe bites than usual for the past two years,” says Clark, “more extreme muscle weakness — sometimes requiring mechanical ventilation for the patient -- and more low-blood pressure than previously.

San Diego County is home to four different rattlesnakes — the Southern Pacific, sidewinder, Southwestern speckled and the red diamondback. Clark, who also heads the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System, says that although all four varieties can be equally dangerous, the Southern Pacific tends to be more common.

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