AUBURN, CA - When Len Ramirez's phone starts ringing a dozen times a day, you know peak rattlesnake season is here.
"This is the year of the snake and we're off to a really good start," said the owner of Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal as he jumped into his bright red truck to answer another call. "The temperatures are just perfect [Wednesday] for rattlesnakes."
Arriving at a country home on the outskirts of Auburn, he heard another story of a close brush with an unexpected arrival described by the homeowner as as big around as her forearm and several feet long.
"The dog was going at it and the rattlesnake was going right back at him," said the homeowner who wanted to be known only by her first name of Tammi.
"I just had my 2 year old out here [Wednesday] walking around not two feet away from where the snake was today," Tammi said, gesturing to the spot in her backyard next to her home.
Ramirez began his search for the snake, armed with a long probe with a hook on the end in one hand and a pole with snake-grabbing pincers in the other.
"People are crossing paths with snakes in their front yards, back yards, in their garages," Ramirez said as he moved into deeper grass, searching carefully along the fence line and beside rocks and boulders.
"They have the capability of striking at 1/25th of a second. And so if you work with a camera, you'll appreciate that speed," Ramirez explained. "By the time our eye picks up on it, it's already in reverse."
Ramirez said he usually finds snakes within a few feet of where they were last sighted, even if it appears to have left the area.
"Rattlesnakes don't travel far, but they conceal themselves well," he said.
On Wednesday, the big rattler that battled with the family dog and appeared fearless when confronted by Tammi seems to have vanished.
Ramirez discovered a hole in the mesh along the backyard fence that may have been the snake's escape route. He decided to come back in a few days to try his search again.
"It's always a good idea that homeowners with small children remember to do a visual safety inspection prior to letting the kids go out to play," Ramirez suggested.
It's advice Tammi is already taking to heart.
"With the kids, we were just out here a couple hours ago, swimming and playing," she said. "So obviously it's a big concern they're gonna be nestled right around where the kids will be playing."
Ramirez had other calls waiting, but after 7 p.m. he called it a day.
"Most of the time people are ecstatic when we show up and make a service call and remove a rattlesnake," Ramirez said. "We've made a lot of friends in this line of work."