'Unprovoked and cruel' attack on rattlesnake at Pismo Preserve

Jul 13, 2020

A pregnant rattlesnake was fatally attacked in its den located on the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo’s nature preserve in Pismo Beach earlier this month. If identified, the man behind the attack could face criminal charges.

On July 3, a hiker at the Pismo Preserve witnessed a man attacking the rattlesnake. Dr. Emily Taylor with Central Coast Snake Services, who tried to rescue the snake, calls the act unprovoked and cruel.

“The reason this particular act was so disturbing was that this occurred on a nature preserve,” said Taylor. “Which is the place where these rattlesnakes live and we are merely visitors.”

Alongside one of the preserve’s trails, there was a wooden signpost warning hikers to avoid the rock den where the rattlesnake lived. Taylor said the man pulled the signpost out of the ground, and used it to stab the animal inside its den multiple times.

The other hiker filmed the man in the act and yelled at him to stop, but he took off before the hiker could reach him.

“They probably thought they killed the rattlesnake, they cut off its rattle and took it with them,” Taylor said. “But the rattlesnake [initially] survived.”

Taylor was called to help save the rattlesnake, but despite her best attempts, the rattlesnake succumbed to the injuries a few days later.

“I do understand that people are afraid of rattlesnakes, and I understand if there is a rattlesnake in someone's yard, that they don’t want to leave it there,” Taylor said. “But what I don’t understand is going after an animal in its own habitat.”

Rattlesnakes get a bad reputation, Taylor says, from shows and videos mostly showing the snake while it's provoked.

“You know all those snakes that are rattling and acting crazy, they’ve been stimulated to defend themselves,” Taylor said. “None of that stuff is actually accurate, because nobody would really want to tune in to watch a snake do what it actually does, which is just sit there.”

Taylor, a Cal Poly biology professor, founded Central Coast Snake Services and is on a mission to educate people about the importance of rattlesnakes. For a fee, she also takes calls to safely relocate a rattlesnake if you find one in your yard.

“They are very important members of the ecological community,” Taylor said. “They eat tons of rodents that would otherwise be denuding all of our plants. They eat rodents that are carrying many diseases.”

Taylor will be hosting a live snake educational demonstration at the Pismo Preserve on July 16 from 4 to 7 pm.

As for the man who attacked the snake, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says he could face misdemeanor charges for harassment of animals.