Saturday, May 17, 2014

northern Pacific rattlesnake ~ 05/17/14 ~ Fort Ord

(ssp. of western rattlesnake)

Rattlesnake or rattle snake?  Ugh.  In any case, you'll notice the max, fuzzy zoom on this baby.  Lyle, the Army Lands munitions safety officer, also served as the snake safety officer and kept all of us a respectable distance away.  This is probably only the third rattlesnake I've ever seen here in CA.  The other two sightings have been tucked in among rocks at Pinnacles at the east entrance to the Balconies Cave and the switchbacks along the Juniper Canyon Trail.  I sometimes forget we have these poisonous snakes, because for me their sighting is rare.  Gary Nafis has created quite a montage of rattlesnake warning signs.  Note the wide head and 3-segmented rattle.  Can you tell how old a rattlesnake is by the number of rattle segments?  This one was small, took up an area probably smaller than a salad plate.


John @ Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

I think you'll have to move in closer next time as so I can count the rattles easier. The closer the better. :)

Neil Kelley said...

When I was about 10, I picked up a hatchling rattlesnake on the Buckeye Trail in Big Sur. I thought it was a gopher snake until I saw the head, and the button on the tail. Luckily I was pretty skilled in snake catching at that point and I had a good hold behind the head. I quickly dropped it back into the poison oak.

I am always impressed by how chill rattlesnakes are, almost every time I encounter them they retreat at an easy pace or else sit still and let their camouflage do the work. I guess they realize they have little to prove. Looks like your friend was prepared to hold her ground though.

Each shed adds a segment to the rattle. But frequency of sheds varies with age and condition and the tip of rattles is frequently worn away over time. Snout-vent length is a more reliable indicator of age I think, if you know something about the population average. But few of us are prepared to pick one up and bust out the tape measure. I don't think I'll try my luck again.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Suuure, John. Maybe you could help me?

Thanks for the shedding info, Neil.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Oh, Neil, in the 3 encounters I've had with rattlesnakes, they do not move. They just sit there, seemingly perfectly okay with loads of people gawking and moving nearby. They are chill.