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Research project at the Safari Park gives new insight on San Diego's rattlesnakes

Snake researcher Jeff Lemm at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Posted at 6:03 PM, Mar 14, 2024

ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) — A new research collaboration between the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and San Diego State University is shedding new light on one of the county's most well-known and least-understood animals: the rattlesnake.

“Knowing what the animals are doing, how much space they’re using, and what behaviors they’re using are going to help us conserve them," said Jeff Lemm, who has been researching snakes at the San Diego Zoo for more than 30 years.

Snakes are notoriously hard to study because they stay out of view as much as possible. "They’re mysterious. We just don’t know enough about them," Lemm said. "We’re very much trying to change that. We need to learn about these animals so we can help conserve them.”

The research team is attaching small devices onto red diamond rattlesnakes that inhabit the hills surrounding the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The devices are giving 24/7 data on where the snakes go and what they do. That, in turn, gives useful information that can help guide conservation policy, including insight on how much room is needed for a healthy rattlesnake population and what impact human developments, such as roads, have on the snakes' native ranges.