American Scene: The Rattlesnakes of Pinole

A.FRED HITCHCOCK once imagined a small California town abruptly and unaccountably beset by flocks of homicidal birds. In Pinole, a suburban hamlet in the hills 14 miles north of San Francisco, the idea might not seem entirely fantastic. Each summer for the past three years, an almost biblical plague of rattlesnakes has descended on the town.

The effect upon such a bedroom community, with its $35,000 Spanish-style houses and stucco split-levels, has been a weird suburban anxiety. Twelve families living along Wright Avenue have killed 27 rattlers so far this year, and as one...

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