Visitors to Pt. Isabel sometimes wonder if a snake they have seen at the park is a rattlesnake. If there are rattlers there, they have been very rarely spotted. The snake most commonly seen at the park is the gopher snake, whose coloration and behavior are similar to that of a rattlesnake. Gopher snakes are harmless, unlike rattlesnakes, so it is important to know the difference.
A rattlesnake has a triangular head much wider than the neck, a thick body with dull skin, and a blunt rattle at the tip. If it is disturbed, it will shake its tail. The rattle sounds like bacon sizzling.
A gopher snake has a narrow head only slightly larger than its neck. The body is slender and usually shiny. The tail is pointed. A frightened gopher snake will flatten its head, hiss loudly, and shake its tail rapidly, doing a convincing rattlesnake imitation.
All park wildlife is protected by law. If you see a snake, leave it alone. Do not try to capture or harm it. Wait for it to go by. Do not approach it or let your dog interfere with it.