Rattlesnake fear should not stop desert wandering. They are a risk but so is a flat tire, a dead battery, or a water bladder that leaked and left you thirsty. “Those things won’t kill you!,” you might say. Well, actually, those things can. From what I read, an otherwise healthy person will face a terrible night of sickness from an untreated rattlesnake bite but nothing close to death.
Do what you can to minimize the risk. Don’t put your hands down any hole or cavity that you can’t see into. All sorts of biting creatures may be there, as well as underneath rocks. Rock piles are a favorite hiding places for snakes as their cavities and voids give them shelter. It’s really impossible to spot a rattler while walking along, they are too well camouflaged to be spotted ahead of time. Most often they will rattle at you if you pass too close, which may be only a foot or two away.
My first rattlesnake encounter was while prospecting in El Dorado County in the Central Foothills of California. I heard a strange sound from out of nowhere, something I hadn’t heard before. I looked at the ground and there was a large rattlesnake, coiled, head back, seemingly ready to strike. Maybe. Or maybe just telling me not to step on it. Anyway, I jumped back about three feet in the air, instantly enough distance to avoid getting bit. I walked off. What I noticed most was how different that rattling sound was from something in the movies or on film. Learn to listen for anything unusual and sudden in the desert, sound may be your best key. I’ve also had encounters with silent rattlesnakes, noticing them just before I put my foot down on them. That time was on a rock pile, again, beware of hounding that kind of ground. In my experience, rattlers can be moving around anytime of day.
Above all, DO NOT SHOOT A RATTLESNAKE! Just move away. You’re far more likely to shoot yourself and this kind of accident occurs throughout the West on a regular basis. Just move away.
On Mount Diablo in the Bay Area I was at a trailhead parking lot when a woman ran up to me, completely out of breath. She asked if there was a ranger around and I said no but that I could try to help her find one. “What was the problem?” She said her hiking group was stopped on a trail with a large rattlesnake in front of them. I didn’t understand what she was getting at. And then, taking a guess, I said, “Have the group walk around it. Give it a wide berth.” She kept staring at me, obviously wanting another answer. I then said, “It will not follow you or chase you down.” Her whole face lit up with happiness and she went off running from where she came. No, they will not follow you.
Some people have the background and interest to move snakes by hand but this is the sort of thing that requires training and knowledge. My friend and mineral dealer Rolf has many rattlesnakes on his southern Arizona property and he has learned to deal with them, even the deadliest. He does not shoot them!
This is a story with pictures that he sent me this morning.
Yesterday we had an interesting thing happen. After the big rain Saturday, Sunday was much calmer and no rain. Yesterday afternoon Mary drove to town to pick up a few things for dinner.
Before she came back I was going to go over and turn off the air conditioning in the store since it was on for about two hours and we keep in off after about two hours on so as not to use too much juice.
I was about to let the dogs out but thought Mary was about to come back and they could get in the way when she parked since Shadow “don’t know nothin about cars” yet, so I decided to leave them in.
I was walking down our ramp and didn’t get far before I saw the rattlesnake. It was right where the dogs often run. It was crawling in the open. I went over to see since it looked different. Sure enough, it was a Mohave Green Rattlesnake, which in the 38 years we have been on the place we have never seen. The Mohave Green is the most dangerous rattlesnake because of its temperament and its much worse poison. They are one of the most toxic snakes in the world. Our bio-habitat is not quite right for them but here it was.
I put it in a bucket and was surprised it was not any more aggressive than the diamondbacks we always find. Since I know if its toxic nature I wanted to document we had found it but not put it out again to get a natural background so got a piece of glass and just finished cleaning it when Mary got back. I put the glass on the bucket instead the lid and got the camera.
The snake was a beautiful snake, if you like that kind of thing, and had coiled up but kept rattling. I took some photos and then replaced the lid and put a piece of railroad rail we use for a door stop on top of the lid, you know just in case kind of thing. We certainly don’t want that one on the place. I was going to take it off with the ATV to where I often release snakes but Mary said she had a better idea. First it was about 15 miles away and a much better habitat for this species.
We drove to the place and found a good release spot and it was still only about 5:30pm so not too hot anymore and a good oportunity to get a couple of photos.
I did just that and thought I attach the three best photos so you can see the snake.
Fortunately my snake eye is still quite sharp and my working with them is like riding a bicycle, you don’t forget all the years of doing it.
Great animal and I have a big respect for them but not on our property.
Mary thought since it was so plump it could have been ready to give birth and that would certainly have been bad. So, off it went and we were again talking on the drive home how pretty that snake is and just how dangerous.
Otherwise not much happening here.
Hope things are good your way.
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