A 74-year-old Belmont man was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake in his garage on the 2900 block of Ralston Avenue Thursday morning.

At approximately 9:20 a.m., Belmont police and firefighters responded to the home where they found the man who was bitten after he reached for a tool. He was treated on scene and taken to the hospital. Firefighters captured the snake and had it taken with the man to the hospital so the proper anti-venom could be administered, according to police.

Belmont police and fire and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife remind the public that San Mateo County is home to wildlife, including rattlesnakes. This is especially important to people living near or visiting open space and watershed areas. Be aware that startled rattlesnakes may not rattle before striking defensively. There are several safety measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of startling a rattlesnake.

• Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking through wild areas. Wear hiking boots;

• When hiking, stick to well-used trails and wear over-the-ankle boots and loose-fitting long pants. Avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where snakes may hide during the day;

• Do not step or put your hands where you cannot see, and avoid wandering around in the dark. Step on logs and rocks, never over them, and be especially careful when climbing rocks or gathering firewood. Check out stumps or logs before sitting down, and shake out sleeping bags before use;

• Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim;

• Be careful when stepping over the doorstep as well. Snakes like to crawl along the edge of buildings where they are protected on one side;

• Never hike alone. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency;

• Do not handle a freshly killed snake, it can still inject venom; and

• Teach children early to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Children are naturally curious and will pick up snakes.

Though uncommon, rattlesnake bites do occur, so have a plan in place for responding to any situation. Carry a portable phone, hike with a companion who can assist in an emergency and make sure that family or friends know where you are going and when you will be checking in.

The first thing to do if bitten is to stay calm. Generally, the most serious effect of a rattlesnake bite to an adult is local tissue damage which needs to be treated. Children, because they are smaller, are in more danger if they are bitten. Call 911 or get to a doctor as soon as possible, but stay calm.

If the doctor is more than 30 minutes away, keep the bite below the heart, and then try to get to the doctor as quickly as possible.

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