El Nino could lead to more rattlesnake sightings

Posted at 6:59 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 23:02:45-05

Ready or not -- it's time to watch out for the rattle.

From Chula Vista to the East County, rattlesnake sightings are on the rise and they're here earlier than usual.

In Harbison Canyon, Tom Minga is on a mission.

“My head needs to be on a swivel, listening at all times,” said Minga.

The search takes him into the dirt and under tree branches - in search of a rattle.

“Everybody runs from them. I run to them!” said Minga.

We don't find any in our brief search, but Minga, who has been rattle rustling for more than three decades, has collected three rattlesnakes in the last day near homes in Alpine.

During our interview, Minga got a call from an Alpine fire station, where a baby rattlesnake had been collected – upping his total to four.

With the recent heat wave, the snakes are slithering about earlier than usual.

The heat tells the snakes to get out and be active to forage for food.

A homeowner in Chula Vista nearly stumbled into a foot-long rattler taking out the trash nine days ago.

It’s one of many sightings in the South Bay we found posted on social media.

And this may be just the beginning.

A recent study shows snakebites peak during El Nino seasons.

As rains force snakes out into the open, the greening landscape is leading to more food sources for the snake.

If those rains come, Minga says he will be ready to find and relocate.

Minga suggests always using a flashlight at night during any sort of hike.

He suggest not  wearing earbuds, because you can usually hear the rattle from far away.