SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — March 1 is the beginning of snake season, but warmer weather is confusing wildlife and bringing them out sooner – including rattlesnakes.

And now there is a class designed to educate the community and protect wildlife.

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“This is a gopher snake. It’s a species often confused with a rattlesnake,” said Michael Starkey, a wildlife biologist who has made a career studying snakes – especially venomous ones.

Starkey is teaming up with the rattlesnake conservancy to offer classes through his organization “Save the Snakes.”

“What we’re doing is trying to mitigate human-snake conflict,” Starkey said.

In its first year of classes, 1,300 students nationwide have learned how to preserve snakes while protecting themselves.

“There’s a lot of bad information out there. This course sets the record straight,” Starkey said.

Many who attend are first responders, wildlife biologists and rescuers – even some homeowners.

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“A big part of the course is identification: learning about what is a rattlesnake, how do rattlesnakes use their environment,” Starkey said, “because that is the main focus is rattlesnakes. But also venom toxicology.”

The first day is coursework and the second is snake handling.

“It’s really important when working with these snakes we never use our hands. We’re always using tools,” Starkey said.

The goal is to educate people about the importance of snakes in our ecosystem.

“They are an excellent form of pest control. They can go places that cats, barn owls, and hawks can’t go. Snakes are a farmer’s best friend,” Starkey said.

He says killing them is not a sustainable form of pest control.

“When there is one, there is going to be another. So it’s best they prepare their home, prepare their family, so that everyone is safe.”

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For more information and how to reserve a spot in their next class, go to