SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Despite a late start, experts say the local rattlesnake season is well underway.
On Easter Sunday afternoon, at La Costa Canyon Park in Carlsbad, Dustin Hawkins was following his 18-month-old son Brady as he climbed play structures.
"He ran, as he does, and went over to the back area of the park," said Hawkins.
As Brady got to a grassy area near a fence, Hawkins heard it.
"Walking behind him kind of slow, and then heard the rattlesnake rattle," said Hawkins.
Brady came to a sudden stop, about a foot away from two-foot-long rattlesnake.
"The snake was pointed right at him, coiled up and ready to strike," said Hawkins.
Hawkins was about 25 feet away,
"My heart jumped up into my throat. Adrenaline kicked in," said Hawkins.
Hawkins yelled at his son, who looked up. A moment later, Hawkins sprinted toward him and scooped him up.
"My heart was pounding. I didn’t think I was going to make it in time, but we were lucky," said Hawkins.
Not as lucky were Kaitlin Reed and her 6-year-old pit bull Pica.
A few weeks ago, they were on a walk along Battle Trail in Tecolote Canyon. Pica was on a leash, about three feet in from of Reed.
“It was so sudden. Out of the grass came a snake. It got her right in the mouth,” said Reed.
Almost immediately, Pica’s face swelled up and she dropped to the ground. Reed rushed Pica to a vet, but despite six vials of antivenin, she died the next day.
“It’s been really hard. She was my best friend,” said a tearful Reed.
Reed is now sharing her story to help other pet owners, as rattlesnake sightings have picked up in the last two weeks.
Local snake wrangler Tom Minga says cold temperatures and rain delayed the start of rattlesnake season, which usually begins in March.
As temperatures continue to heat up, Hawkins has this reminder.
“When you’re outdoors, you’re in the animal’s world. You need to always be vigilant,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins says the snake at the park was captured and relocated.
He reported the incident to the Carlsbad officials. A city spokesperson tells ABC 10News they’ll be looking into measures to prevent future incidents at the park.