Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Record Year

I picked up a piece of corrugated metal and saw a small lizard. I herded the lizard away from my work materials so I wouldn't crush him accidentally. As I moved more pieces of metal I saw another small tail disappear under a sheet. I lifted the piece and saw a small rattlesnake about nine inches in length. Cute! This was the smallest snake I've discovered in the yard.

I herded the snake to safety and went back to work with a little more caution. As a kid I heard that snakes are always found in pairs. Not true but definitely a memorable saying to a six year old. I moved more materials and uncovered a second snake about 10 inches long. My lucky day!

Small Hopi Rattlesnake.
Small Hopi Rattlesnake about nine inches long. (Larger version)

Small Hopi Rattlesnake.
Notice the nail in the bottom right of the photo. I dropped the 16 penny nail to give perspective to the size of the snake. (Larger version)

The weather has been unseasonably warm lately so it stands to reason that snake season isn't necessarily over but I hadn't seen one in about three weeks and assumed I wouldn't see more until next year.

Normally I see about eight rattlesnakes per year and two or three non-poisonous species. I've lost count but this year I've seen 13 or 14 rattlesnakes in the yard and only one gopher snake.

At a breakfast on Sunday morning I was talking to a neighbour. She said she had seen more rattlesnakes this summer than usual. Her theory was that the increase in population is due to the drought. My initial reaction was skeptical but I'm not certain. Regardless, it has been a record year for sightings.


Blogger Malcolm said...

It's really good to see the pictures of the rattlesnakes but, I don't think I'd like them in my backyard. Much as I love snakes, I wouldn't like to be around venomous ones.

10/25/2009 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

I'm glad to read you didn't impulsively kill the snakes the way so many would. How big to they get? What would happen if one of those little guys were to bite you?

10/31/2009 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

MM, I never kill snakes and find their behavior fascinating.

Non-poisonous snakes tend to flee while rattlesnakes tend to remain quiet and still unless threatened. Then they will flee while rattling and keeping the heads turned toward the threat.

Hopi Rattlesnakes don't get large. Most that I have seen are about 24 inches or less in length. It's a harsh dry environment that doesn't foster large size.

Snakes can strike only 1/3 to 1/2 their body length so a snakes 9 inches in length can reach only 4 and 1/2 inches. I wear boots 6 inches high so I was safe from these little guys unless I got a hand close to them.

These rattlesnakes have a hemotoxin and aren't as dangerous as the Mojave Rattlesnakes in lower elevations south of Flagstaff. Mojaves has a neurotoxin. Two or three years ago a 50-some year old woman was bitten and brought to the Flagstaff Medical Center where she died two days later.

I've been bitten once. A few years ago I stepped on a snake in the dark just north of Phoenix and spent the night in the emergency room. Other than a rash around the bite and a little tightness in my throat I had no reaction. Fortunately, there is no venom injection in about one-third of all bites.

I've learned to be more cautious. If I get bitten, the first thing I'll do is get to the Medical Center as soon as possible.

But, bites are rare, serious harm less rare and death is extremely rare so prudent caution is all that's required.

11/02/2009 09:16:00 AM  

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