An infestation of rattlesnakes spotted near the city's western boundary has prompted officials to alert area families.
Sykes Ranch Park on Hayes Avenue is closed until further notice while the Murrieta Community Services Department continues to clear shrubbery that can be ideal for the varmints, Assistant City Manager Jim Holston confirmed Friday.
"Snakes weren’t found in the park, but near there along Murrieta Creek we have found four in the last week," Holston said. "A couple have been reported up on the street but I haven’t personally seen them."
Holston notified the nearby campuses of Murrieta Valley High School and Thompson Middle School, asking parents and students to take precautions.
"The city has been clearing brush in the channel that starts at Sykes Ranch Park (across from Thompson MS) to the Murrieta Creek. They have encountered quite a few rattlesnakes and they have placed snake repellents in the area," Holston said in the notice.
"However, the repellents will take a few days to work. Students should be aware of the possibility of snakes in that area and they should avoid use of the short cut through the fields on the way to school or home and also avoid playing or hanging out in the brush areas."
Resident Lisa Daniels, who lives near Murrieta Valley High School, said she has seen several rattlesnakes in her yard, some of which have bitten her dogs.
"In my driveway, I have almost stepped on one a foot away," Daniels said. "We have had at least two rounds of bites (to our dogs)."
Daniels said she has made repeated calls concerning the snakes to Murrieta City Hall as well as the Murrieta Fire Department, which comes to homes to retrieve snakes and relocate them.
A combination of things may be bringing the snakes out, city officials said, including recent unseasonably warm weather.
Murrieta Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gibbs told Patch he often hikes in the Murrieta Creek area and said it is not uncommon to see rattlesnakes west of the creek.
"I see them every day," Gibbs said. "...Right now for whatever reason, there seems to be an increase in rattlesnakes a little closer to populated areas."
His thought was recent rains flooded the creek and brought the snakes to the east. There is also water district construction going on, which can cause the ground to vibrate and force snakes to migrate, he said.
Gibbs said the city notified the school district, but he also wanted to stress that residents—west of Washington Avenue from Kalmia Street to Calle Del Oso Oro—should take caution, especially if they have pets or small children. It would not be uncommon for the snakes to make their way into nearby backyards, he said.
If residents see snakes, he said they should bring their pets and children inside and call the Murrieta Fire Department.
Holston said while he doesn't think there is an epidemic, the community should be aware.
"We wanted to err on the side of caution," Holston said. "We won’t let this go until we have taken all the precautions."
The park is expected to be closed for maintenance until at least the end of next week, Holston said.
"Over there we are up against a huge open space. We have the Plateau and then Camp Pendleton and then the Cleveland National Forest. So there is plenty of habitat."