Common kingsnakes eat rattlesnakes, and are not venomous themselves.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ RUSTY DODSON
Back in the November/December 1972 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, E.G. Gordon, a recent emigrant to the Oregon hills from the sidewalks of Los Angeles, asked what he should do to stay healthy in rattlesnake territory. Here are a few suggestions:
 Any king snakes you find around the house and or barn should be encouraged. They'll eat a few eggs or small chicks . . . but they also prey on rattlesnakes.
 Most cats and dogs don't care for snakes and will therefore alert you to such a creature's presence. Dogs, however, often get bitten. Guinea hens are supposed to be excellent "snakers" as well as top-notch watch birds
 If you're walking in a rattler-infested area, wear long trousers and knee-high boots.
 Never put your hands under or into anything if you can't see what else might be there.
 Carry - and use - a 4 or 5-foot pole to probe any brush or high grass you go through. The said stick (or a frog gig) can also be very handy for banging snakes to death or for pushing them away from you.
 Bullwhips (6-12 feet long) are most effective reptile killers . . . if you're experienced in their handling. Such a whip can be used for cutting, popping or "roping" as with a lariat, but only after a lot of practice.
 Stop if you think you hear a rattler. Stand absolutely still until you can see where the sound comes from or otherwise ascertain whether or not there's a snake nearby. Remember, though, this species doesn't always give warning (and other pit vipers can't).
 If you spot one snake, watch for another. I've seen plenty of rattlers and never more than one at a time, but it's good to remember this old wives tale . . . just in case.
 Out in the countryside, carry a snakebite kit and know how to use it. Specific emergency treatment is covered in most field manuals, survival guides and first aid booklets.
 If the worst happens, stay cool and don't panic. A rattler's bite usually isn't deadly . . . but it's not to be taken lightly, either. Get treatment as soon as possible.