Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 6th, 2015, 12:25 pm

In reference to this thread ---► Hanldling Wild Herps POLL http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=21776

However, this thread is specific to rattlesnake herpers

I'm new to herping as of May 2014 - And I am specific to rattlesnakes since I have a 2 mi x 3 mi area that is covered with rattlesnakes - and seems to be untouched. Last season I vouchered 13 subjects in a period of two months with absolutely no experience.

I have video and in the video I recorded last season, I handled all of the subjects. Then on FHF I am of the understanding that handling is not recommended, and is frowned upon. Well, there must be good reason ... and that is the subject of this thread.

My concern if for the well being of my rattlesnakes, I have immense respect for their natural life. I want to do what is right by them. So, please tell me why in situ video and photography is recommended over handling. Understand, I do believe I already understand but it's hard ... it's difficult to not handle these beautiful creatures. Additionally, I have never and DO NOT handle the rattlers from behind the head, I am NOT doing that, and most likely never will do that. I use tongs front 1/3 and a hook to support the back 1/3, sometimes my hand on the back 1/3.

Is it okay to "minimal handling" tong the rattler in a situation to photograph and video? - Or no handling whatsoever?

If your answer is NO handling whatsoever, please tell me how you do it ... I want to learn the RIGHT way from seasoned rattlesnake herpers. I want only to do what's right for my rattlesnakes ... and still get great photos and video to share my passion. Thank you - jd

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2289
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Noah M » April 6th, 2015, 3:11 pm

I don't free handle (w/o tong, hook or stick) any rattlesnake because no matter how careful I may think I am, if the inevitable rattlesnake bite doesn't kill me, my wife would after she found out about it :lol:

And even then when I do encounter a rattlesnake (or anything seriously venomous), 99% of the time I'm using a hook or stick to move it off of the road. If all you are doing is present or absent sampling, there is no need to handle the animal to get a picture that shows that it is present.

Here in Florida a license is required to capture, keep, possess or exhibit any poisonous or venomous reptiles. To get that license you are to have received something like 100 1,000 hours of apprenticeship experience from a trained professional who is current on their license. So aside from safety to yourself, it could be argued that handling a venomous reptile constitutes capture, and it would be illegal to do so if you don't have a license.

I'm sure arguments can also be made regarding the health and safety of the animal too, but the two I made above are enough for me.

hellihooks
Posts: 8025
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
Location: Hesperia, California.
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by hellihooks » April 6th, 2015, 3:46 pm

Just one stressful encounter with a human (say... a photo session) is enough to make a crote abandon it's den/ hibernaculuem and move to the other end of it's home range. Coiled and ready to strike is not (while impressive) a sign of a relaxed snake... it is stressed snake. trick is... seeing them before they see you (preferably never) keep at it... your photo opportunities will come... :thumb:

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 6th, 2015, 3:55 pm

A License to handle rattlesnakes in California is NOT required.

I am at this time of the mindset to NOT handle rattlesnakes this season, I am interested in the in-situ style of rattlesnake video and photography. I'm looking for pointers, confidence, reasons. And my question of 'is minimal handling' for set-up photography okay. My time with a subject is usually 15 to 25 minutes in the shade, so as not to over-heat the fine animal.

How do you guys do it, if you don't handle at all ... pointers please.

From: CaliforniaHerps.com http://www.californiaherps.com/info/herpinglaws.html
Rattlesnakes

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has decided that a license is not needed to collect rattlesnakes, but bag and possession limits do apply, except for Crotalus ruber, which is protected from all collection.

My guess is that this is for the benefit of someone who feels that they need to kill a rattlesnake on their property in order to protect themself, their family, or their animals. This might seem to encourage the unnecessary killing of rattlesnakes, however these people are most likely unaware that they would need a license to kill what many herpetologically uneducated people (the vast majority) consider dangerous vermin.

From: California Department of Fish & Game https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx ... 497&inline
2015-2016 Freshwater Sport Fishing BOOKLET (PDF) - Page 22

5.60. REPTILES.
(a) Only the following reptiles may be taken under
the authority of a sportfishing license, subject to the
restrictions in this section. No sportfishing license
is required for the sport take of any rattlesnake, but
bag and possession limits do apply. No reptiles shall
be taken from ecological reserves designated by
the commission in Section 630 or from state parks,
or national parks or monuments.
(b) Limit: The limit for each of the species listed
below is two, unless otherwise provided. Limit,
as used in this section, means daily bag and
possession limit.

User avatar
Bryan Hamilton
Posts: 1217
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Bryan Hamilton » April 6th, 2015, 4:26 pm

hellihooks wrote:Just one stressful encounter with a human (say... a photo session) is enough to make a crote abandon it's den/ hibernaculuem and move to the other end of it's home range
To clarify here, helihooks is talking about a short-term response. The snake gets scared and moves away from the disturbance. I'm not aware of any evidence of rattlesnakes permanently abandoning their dens and trying to hibernate somewhere else due to human disturbance. And some snakes are a lot more sensitive than others. If there is food there, the snakes are more likely to stay close to a disturbance. If its a rookery or a den site, they tend to stay close too.

I handle alot of rattlesnakes for scientific reasons. When I herp now I tend to just watch. Seeing a relaxed snake is more rewarding for me than having one striking and writhing in a pair of tongs. Its is pretty cool getting photos and the snake not even being aware that you are there.

User avatar
Kent VanSooy
Posts: 1100
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:51 am
Location: Oceanside

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Kent VanSooy » April 6th, 2015, 4:59 pm

Even from a purely selfish perspective, you'll get better pictures if you don't manipulate the snakes, and years later when you look at your shots, they will bring back the memory of how you first saw the snake (which for many of us is the sweetest). Search for Brendan O'Connor and take a look at his rattlesnake photos - you'll see what I mean.

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 6th, 2015, 6:08 pm

Kent VanSooy wrote:Even from a purely selfish perspective, you'll get better pictures if you don't manipulate the snakes, and years later when you look at your shots, they will bring back the memory of how you first saw the snake (which for many of us is the sweetest). Search for Brendan O'Connor and take a look at his rattlesnake photos - you'll see what I mean.
Brennan O'Connor ... I recognize that name, from the Rattlesnake link on CaliforniaHerps.com http://www.californiaherps.com/info/rat ... einfo.html ... wrote a book with Brian Hubbs "A Guide To Rattlesnakes..." -- That Brendan O'Connor?

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3298
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by chrish » April 6th, 2015, 9:05 pm

John,

I think the question you have to ask yourself is "Why are you handling them?"

I know of several answers to the question -

1. I need to physically handle the snake to get specific data for legitimate research (scale clips, DNA, measurements, venom, etc.)
2. I like the way it feels to handle venomous snakes. I admire the animals and want to have the level of control that physically handling gives me.
3. I like having the ability to handle a dangerous animal. It makes me feel good about my skill level in dealing with these creatures.
4. I handle them to get better photos (although I have hundreds of photos of venomous snakes and I can't think of the last time I actually physically touched one?? It has to be nearly 20 years)

From my perspective, the last three are illegitimate reasons.

One thing you will notice is that the longer a herper has been dealing with venomous snakes (or herps in general) the less likely they are to physically handle them. The reasons may be different for each person, but for me at some point the respect for the animal has overshadowed my need to handle them. I can enjoy them at arms length.

I do sometimes like to get my "hands on" a long-sought lifer, at least for a few minutes. Something about that physical interaction seems to bring closure. But in most cases, I don't need that any more either. But those aren't venomous animals. For hots, having it in front of me or at most, on a hook, is plenty.

But, it would be unfair for me to judge those who handle venomous snakes. I did it for my first few years of dealing with them. I enjoyed the feeling of control it gave me. One day, I got bit for having that feeling. I realized that day (6/9/86) that it wasn't worth the risk to me and later I realized it wasn't worth the stress to the animal.

If you really admire the splendor of a particular critter, why not admire it without disturbing it?

simus343
Posts: 566
Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by simus343 » April 6th, 2015, 10:09 pm

I typically leave them just because it disturbs them in their location. If sitting coiled in a hidden spot, being a passive predator (at least with Eastern Diamonds), I would imagine they are waiting in ambush for a cotton rat or rabbit. If disturbed and moved by me, they may very well likely leave the spot that they were sitting in, for who knows how long. As a result, if I see one wedged/hiding, I leave it be. Same with cottonmouths and pygmies. I only move them when they are on roads.

Then I don't use a hook/free handle because without having the head secure to some degree, and even still then, its not if you get bitten, its when. The price for Diamondback treatment can be absolutely insane.

Also I have reached a point where I still greatly enjoy herping more than anything, but I have recently gotten over the desire to catch and hold everything. My older herping friends that I know also seem to show this compared to their stories from youth. I think over time people just get past wanting to be hands on all the time, as they see no reason to catch the snakes, venomous or not, unless it is for work or to keep. Most of the herpers I know, not all, don't work with snakes. Then all the herpers I know either have what they want to work with, or just flat out don't keep snakes. So, unless for a study or catching to be kept (which people tend to frown on here in my experience), there is no real reason to be handling rattlers unless moving them to safety.

And then for me as well, the good ol' Florida license requirements.
captainjack0000 wrote:
Here in Florida a license is required to capture, keep, possess or exhibit any poisonous or venomous reptiles. To get that license you are to have received something like 100 hours of apprenticeship experience from a trained professional who is current on their license. So aside from safety to yourself, it could be argued that handling a venomous reptile constitutes capture, and it would be illegal to do so if you don't have a license.
I have not looked into it, but while talking with an animal control officer that gave an small alligator to my boss/manager for release said that 1000 hours under a licensed individual is required. But he may have read the 100 wrong and memorized it as 1000 as well though so don't hold me to that haha.

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2289
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Noah M » April 7th, 2015, 5:28 am

Nope, typo on my part. I do believe it is 1000, not 100. :D I remember talking to George VanHorn at the Reptile World Serpentarium about it. He had a guy working with him trying to get his hours.

User avatar
BillMcGighan
Posts: 2308
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by BillMcGighan » April 7th, 2015, 5:43 am

Personally, I’m a supporter of young and inexperienced herpers “touching” NON-VENOMOUS finds to gain admiration and respect for the uniqueness of herps in general. There is an almost primordial connection.


Fascination for the capture amongst children is something to watch as their eyes are opened to these life forms. (Of course, some may argue that the need to “capture” and “control” is a vestigial behavioral from our not-so-long-ago hunter/gatherer days! Many young mammal predators seem to play this game.)


The added risk of dealing with a venomous animal, on the other hand, makes a risk assessment appropriate.
Researchers must at least disturb the animal and wrangle it into a tube.
Animal control folks must, of course, take the animal by force.
IMHO getting the animal off the road or even a busy path is usually worth the interference, with full knowledge that a tag is possible or even a ticket from the law. (This is just me and I wouldn’t have the same expectations in others.)


ChrisH’s question is paramount:
I think the question you have to ask yourself is "Why are you handling them?"
This, of course, is rhetorical and the only person you have to answer to is yourself, if you're within the law.
With experience, you can even ask yourself this with non-venomous.
I am interested in the in-situ style of rattlesnake video and photography. I'm looking for pointers, confidence, reasons. And my question of 'is minimal handling' for set-up photography okay. My time with a subject is usually 15 to 25 minutes in the shade, so as not to over-heat the fine animal.
One of the tools I find very useful for in situ is a pair of binoculars.
Assessing a probable habitat, moving into it very, very slowly, and scanning meticulously with the glass is tough, often you get skunked, but, when you do score, the experience is über gratifying.
This scenario is not a great video opportunity.

User avatar
Stohlgren
Posts: 603
Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Stohlgren » April 7th, 2015, 8:07 am

John Delgado wrote:I'm new to herping as of May 2014 - And I am specific to rattlesnakes since I have a 2 mi x 3 mi area that is covered with rattlesnakes - and seems to be untouched. Last season I vouchered 13 subjects in a period of two months with absolutely no experience.
Regardless of ones feelings on handling, as many of those concerns have been addressed above, I would recommend observing to you specifically, since you have an area where you regularly encounter rattlesnakes. This is quite a cool opportunity for you to witness behaviors that most people don't get to see. If you've already got videos of you interacting with them from last season, why not try to get some new, interesting, natural behavior this season?

While more challenging, I think you will find getting some in situ images and video will be very rewarding.

https://flic.kr/p/fKUyJD

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

User avatar
nhherp
Posts: 121
Joined: August 10th, 2010, 10:25 am
Location: southwest US - NM

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by nhherp » April 7th, 2015, 8:45 am

I consider WHEN and WHY necessary to decide on handling justification...


WHEN TO NOT DISTURB..
At a hiberniculum during the spring emergence or fall entry.
The snake is curled in ambush mode - ( no real reason other then to not lessen their chance of success )
Gravid females OR postpartum in a rookery- (specific species dependent)

Image

WHEN IT DOES NOT CONCERN ME TO HANDLE.
Any snake crossing a highway with traffic I will move off the road, and in denser population of houses I will drive a quarter mile out to release. On my lonely highways where I live, I can often simply watch them continue on into the grass at their own pace.
Rattlesnakes in my yard or front porch are moved to the back of my property.
An active snake out and about ( although they can be very intriguing to follow and observe )

I too have to say that with age came a greater appreciation of simple observation. I recognize the "lifer moment" as well especially in younger enthusiasts.

-N-

Jimi
Posts: 1867
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Jimi » April 7th, 2015, 8:59 am

Chris' response was golden, as far as I'm concerned. It's worth a re-post:
John,

I think the question you have to ask yourself is "Why are you handling them?"

I know of several answers to the question -

1. I need to physically handle the snake to get specific data for legitimate research (scale clips, DNA, measurements, venom, etc.)
2. I like the way it feels to handle venomous snakes. I admire the animals and want to have the level of control that physically handling gives me.
3. I like having the ability to handle a dangerous animal. It makes me feel good about my skill level in dealing with these creatures.
4. I handle them to get better photos (although I have hundreds of photos of venomous snakes and I can't think of the last time I actually physically touched one?? It has to be nearly 20 years)

From my perspective, the last three are illegitimate reasons.

One thing you will notice is that the longer a herper has been dealing with venomous snakes (or herps in general) the less likely they are to physically handle them. The reasons may be different for each person, but for me at some point the respect for the animal has overshadowed my need to handle them. I can enjoy them at arms length.

I do sometimes like to get my "hands on" a long-sought lifer, at least for a few minutes. Something about that physical interaction seems to bring closure. But in most cases, I don't need that any more either. But those aren't venomous animals. For hots, having it in front of me or at most, on a hook, is plenty.

But, it would be unfair for me to judge those who handle venomous snakes. I did it for my first few years of dealing with them. I enjoyed the feeling of control it gave me. One day, I got bit for having that feeling. I realized that day (6/9/86) that it wasn't worth the risk to me and later I realized it wasn't worth the stress to the animal.

If you really admire the splendor of a particular critter, why not admire it without disturbing it?
Inland Mendocino (and Lake, Napa, Sonoma, etc...) has zillions of rattlesnakes, so count yourself lucky. It's a situation where you can rapidly develop your field skills, and see some really cool stuff (feeding, combat, birthing, etc). However, concerning physical interaction, which is always going to be non-consensual as far as the snake is concerned - besides animal welfare concerns, there's yourself and your family's well-being to consider. Messing with vipers can cause you to get very, very, very unlucky, like happened to Chris and many others here.

I think my history is a lot like Chris's, fortunately without the bite (knock on wood). I hardly even leave the house with a hook any more, unless I'm road cruising (I move them all off the road if I can avoid getting roadkilled myself). So other than thinking you're pretty foolish for touching them - a violation of the CARDINAL rule for avoiding bites, which by all accounts are ruinously expensive, and horrifically painful and frightening - I don't judge you or your motives for wanting to do so, because I have been there too. I think you just have to ask yourself that question Chris posed - why do I do that?

So have a care for your person, and respect the animals. They require it, it's not optional for you. Learn from others, or do it the hard way...your life, your call.

I will close by bumping the suggestion to look at Brenda's posts. See his pictures, read his words. He is an inspiration to many of us here. Where you live, you are in a position to develop similar long-term knowledge of whole families of animals. You will be more successful if you do not aggravate them.

Best,
Jimi

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 7th, 2015, 9:39 am

chrish wrote:John,

I think the question you have to ask yourself is "Why are you handling them?"

I know of several answers to the question -

1. I need to physically handle the snake to get specific data for legitimate research (scale clips, DNA, measurements, venom, etc.)
No, I am not a scientist, not a herpetologist gathering data. I am merely an amateur (noob) field herper captivated by the sheer beauty of rattlesnakes. Please don't ask why, I do not know. One day it just happened, and I am forever in awe of rattlesnakes.
Rattlesnakes are highly evolved to exist in some of the worlds most uninhabitable places on earth. They are very capable of self existence. To sum up my observation ... rattlesnakes are shy, reclusive humble hermits. They are very misunderstood, to say the least.
chrish wrote:2. I like the way it feels to handle venomous snakes. I admire the animals and want to have the level of control that physically handling gives me.
Yes, I like the way it feels to handle a venomous snake. Yes I admire them and it does give me a sense of control. Thank you, I can see that this is similar to why I quit drinking in 1999. I believe that to overcome something, one NEEDS to be honest and admit the truth before that which one wants to overcome can be eliminated.
I want to NOT handle the rattlesnakes ... I want what is good and RIGHT for them. I do admire them, I do respect them and therefore I only desire their well being, even if it means giving up that which I like ... I like handling them.
chrish wrote:3. I like having the ability to handle a dangerous animal. It makes me feel good about my skill level in dealing with these creatures.
I do have the ability to handle rattlesnakes. I know I can handle them by/from behind the head. Will I do that ??? NO...! I will not ever handle a rattlesnake from behind the head unless I absolutely have to. And so far I have never had the NEED to do that, and I do not think I ever will NEED to do that. I have a great desire (also) to NOT get bit. When handling I use, and only use a 42" snake tong and hook.
chrish wrote:4. I handle them to get better photos (although I have hundreds of photos of venomous snakes and I can't think of the last time I actually physically touched one?? It has to be nearly 20 years)
I am concerned that my photo opportunities will be greatly reduced. The rattlers in my area live in a very-very brushy area (pics below). And usually when I spot one, it's crossing a trail or dirt road. They are quick to scurry towards the side of the road and into the brush of cover to hide, to protect themselves form what they perceive as a predator (me!). It cracks me up every time when I think of people freak and say "aren't you afraid they will ATTACK you...!??!" :shock: No ... they are scared, freaked by humans ... if they had legs, they'd RUN for the hills by golly...!
chrish wrote:But, it would be unfair for me to judge those who handle venomous snakes. I did it for my first few years of dealing with them. I enjoyed the feeling of control it gave me. One day, I got bit for having that feeling. I realized that day (6/9/86) that it wasn't worth the risk to me and later I realized it wasn't worth the stress to the animal.

If you really admire the splendor of a particular critter, why not admire it without disturbing it?
I may have to handle on a minimum level to keep from disappearing into the THICK brush. I cannot go to, impossible to find the den(s) - I would love to, and I would if I could ... but look at these pics ... impossible to locate their homes. And if I could, if I did ever find a den ... I would keep the site as private as possible. I do not give their location away to anyone except my wife. There are bear and mountain lion up there and I always leave my planned course when I go up, in case I don't come home and I may be in trouble. Also what, if you see my video's ... why I carry a sidearm, protection fom mountain lion, not so much bear. Bear are not interested in humans, they run like rattlesnakes.

ImageDSC_0031 by johnedelgado, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0032 by johnedelgado, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0033 by johnedelgado, on Flickr

User avatar
BillMcGighan
Posts: 2308
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by BillMcGighan » April 7th, 2015, 10:41 am

JD
Yes, I like the way it feels to handle a venomous snake. Yes I admire them and it does give me a sense of control. Thank you, I can see that this is similar to why I quit drinking in 1999. I believe that to overcome something, one NEEDS to be honest and admit the truth before that which one wants to overcome can be eliminated.
Undrstand, controlling such a creature is gaining self control, standing up to earlier fears is a great therapy, John, but sooner or later, you have to come to grips that your not controlling the blood thirsty demon of the stories of your younger days, but a fairly misunderstood creature, that is really a push-over to control.

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 7th, 2015, 11:01 am

BillMcGighan wrote:JD
Yes, I like the way it feels to handle a venomous snake. Yes I admire them and it does give me a sense of control. Thank you, I can see that this is similar to why I quit drinking in 1999. I believe that to overcome something, one NEEDS to be honest and admit the truth before that which one wants to overcome can be eliminated.
Undrstand, controlling such a creature is gaining self control, standing up to earlier fears is a great therapy, John, but sooner or later, you have to come to grips that your not controlling the blood thirsty demon of the stories of your younger days, but a fairly misunderstood creature, that is really a push-over to control.
Ahhh ... love this ... QFT...!!!

User avatar
TravisK
Posts: 772
Joined: July 8th, 2010, 10:14 am
Location: Eastern Washington

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by TravisK » April 7th, 2015, 2:43 pm

NO

I used to think it was cool to handle hots. I did some in the past and even kissed one on camera. I realize now that it was all for and due too selfishness on my part and was not in any way in the animals best interest. It's just not worth the risk in my opinion, for me anyway.

User avatar
soulsurvivor
Posts: 531
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:09 am
Location: NE Florida
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by soulsurvivor » April 7th, 2015, 3:38 pm

Everyone here has made all the necessary points, and they are all correct. Handling rattlesnakes is selfish if not done specifically to obtain scientific evidence. You simply cannot justify it. It is not good for you, or the animal. I used to handle also, everything from big cobras to eastern diamondbacks to canebrakes. I guess it made me feel skillful, but what does that do for the animal? I haven't handled a live venomous snake since 2009. I love photographing snakes in the wild, and yeah, sometimes you miss the shot, but so what? You can continue the quest another day.

~Bree

Jimi
Posts: 1867
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Jimi » April 7th, 2015, 4:00 pm

Hmm. Well John I can understand your answers. This one in particular, for it is mine when people ask why do I enjoy keeping vipers as "pets" (I dislike the term; they are not companions):
Please don't ask why, I do not know.
I guess one answer is, a) there's no accounting for taste and b) I'm a grownup, I'll do as I please...

But if that's your attitude, don't ask for opinions (especially on the internet!), because you don't want them. That's just a straight fact, nothing implied whatsoever. I can understand it. Live and let live, the golden rule etc.

To your problem with brush, and your question "Well, what would you do in my shoes?" my answer is, change the circumstances in which you're encountering the animals. I suspect you're encountering late-spring and summer dispersing animals, and/or males doing their annual late-summer mate-searching. Yeah, they're going to bolt into the brush when they're warm and out on the crawl. You're only going to get a fraction of a minute with them.

I know your country pretty well, I made a living walking around in it for a number of years. On the landscape, it isn't 100% wall-to-wall thick evergreen brush (although such patches can be pretty big!). Find some steeper south- or west-facing exposures with some big rock outcrops, and deciduous or sparse shrubs (e.g., coyote brush or poison oak or white oak). Go there in say late March or early November, a clear or overcast, calm day within say 5 degrees of 60F. Maybe this very weekend. Take a mirror or flashlight for looking in cracks. Snoop around slowly and quietly, and don't scare the snakes - when you see one back off a little, take a seat and just look (and watch out for others nearby). If you can do this, you can come back again and again to do the same thing. You can sit with them for hours, and get your fill of their company and behavior, with little risk to them or you. Try to voucher a zonata while you're at it, huh?

See FHF posts (esp the NE chapter, also midwest) with "horridus" (timber rattlers) - their ecology and habitat choices are kind of analogous to NorPacs. See the situations in which they are photo'd at heir dens - in cracks, under ledges, sometimes right out in the open. You're tuned in to animals stretched out and on the crawl. Develop your search image of a motionless coiled snake in leaf litter among stones. They're pretty easily overlooked until you get dialed in. Then it'll be a lot easier to see them. Be careful who you share den locations with - people talk, and the site could get vandalized. NorCal has plenty of rednecks.

Good for you for kicking booze. I would definitely leave the tongs at home. After a while, try leaving the hook too. They're just dead weight, man.

cheers
Jimi

hellihooks
Posts: 8025
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
Location: Hesperia, California.
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by hellihooks » April 7th, 2015, 4:57 pm

One last thing I'll add, which I'm not sure others can relate to or not... if and when you gain a reputation as a proficient 'wrangler'... it may come about that you find yourself invited on herping trips, for that certain skill set... at which point your hook and tongs are no longer the tool... you are. don't be a tool.

As for the handling question... allow me to re-post something I posted several years ago... some "food for thought' :thumb:

I actually didn't get to finish what I wanted to say, in reply to JDM yesterday (had to go to work) The focus in these discussions seem to gravitate towards making 'value judgments' on certain behaviors... handling, collecting, posing, ect...with the term 'ethical' synonymous with 'right', with the goal being deciding which behaviors are justifiable.
Problem is... what's 'right' for one person, seems wrong to another, because we hold different perspectives, motivations and priorities. Rather than argue the merits of given behaviors, I would suggest that the goal of 'Ethical Guidelines' should be to get people to examine WHY they think things are either right or wrong, by an ongoing process of self-examination.Since 'philosophical' terms seem to do nothing but make folks want to 'tune out'... I thought I might try this with some psychological terms that might be more accessible, regarding self-actualization and personal growth.

Those terms are 'Id' (basic wants and desires) 'Ego' (constraints on the Id that allow people to function in society) Super-Ego (development of etiquette that allows us to function 'well') and the Ideal-ego (placing 'Ideals' above all other motivations)

It is exactly when these motivations collide, that we need 'ethics'. By way of example, yesterday I flipped a juvie Skiltons Skink. I wanted to catch it, (Id) because I really like these skinks, with their bright blue tails, their quickness and smooth scalation, ect. But they drop their tails SO readily, and the possibility of that happening was not worth me getting to hold it and trying to get a bunch of 'great shots' of it, for either data collection (Ego) or the 'kudos' I might get for getting 'great shots' of a hard to photograph herp.(Super-ego)So I went for the 'ideal' of an insitu shot (as flipped. actually... )... and got ONE shot, before the skink vanished....
Image
I returned the Skink's 'home' to it's original sealed condition, and am satisfied on all counts that I behaved as 'ethically' as possible in this situation, and consider it a great herping encounter... :D

Depending on what your overarching motivations for being in the field are, on any given day, (observation, data, photos, ect) and the always different circumstances of each encounter, one must always make these motivational cost/benefit analyses on the spot, and it's much easier to do when one has given it some thought beforehand.

THAT'S the goal of 'Ethics'... to get people to look at themselves...before they hit the field... not to argue endlessly over what's 'right' or 'wrong'...
Posted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 9:55 am

So... Kudos to you for attempting to be prepared to make good decisions... before you hit the field. BTW... i figured out long ago that drinking and hots don't mix... quit drinking nearly 30 years ago... ;)

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4314
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Kelly Mc » April 10th, 2015, 7:56 am

Rattlesnakes have a strong and wholesome contingent of expert support here by the Rattlesnake Guys of FHF.

It would be so cool if Elapids had same someday. I include them in my prayers

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 11th, 2015, 1:45 pm

Stohlgren wrote:
John Delgado wrote:I'm new to herping as of May 2014 - And I am specific to rattlesnakes since I have a 2 mi x 3 mi area that is covered with rattlesnakes - and seems to be untouched. Last season I vouchered 13 subjects in a period of two months with absolutely no experience.
Regardless of ones feelings on handling, as many of those concerns have been addressed above, I would recommend observing to you specifically, since you have an area where you regularly encounter rattlesnakes. This is quite a cool opportunity for you to witness behaviors that most people don't get to see. If you've already got videos of you interacting with them from last season, why not try to get some new, interesting, natural behavior this season?
This ^^^ is exactly what I am interested in doing. However, the pics I posted earlier of the very brushy terrain make for very difficult den observation. However, since it is so brushy, and therefore a lot of shade ... I'm thinking the rattlers will be looking for sun to bask in during their travels in the mating season.

Early morning sun, or late afternoon before the sun goes down is probably best opportunities, please correct me if I'm wrong. I am NOT here to teach, I am here to learn from you guys ... please help me.

But yes, you are correct ... what an extraordinary area to study my new passion. This area I go to is pristine ... nobody goes there to do what I do. I did not see ONE person on foot last season like me ... not even one.
Stohlgren wrote: While more challenging, I think you will find getting some in situ images and video will be very rewarding.
Yes ... challenging is the word for it.

I love this pic ... look at that natural camouflage - The mystery of Mother Nature protecting one of her vulnerable animals.
Stohlgren wrote:Image

User avatar
soulsurvivor
Posts: 531
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:09 am
Location: NE Florida
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by soulsurvivor » April 11th, 2015, 1:54 pm

John, I lived in CA for a couple years, and we would often go hiking in the early morning, setting out when it was still chilly. Upon reaching our destination, which was frequently the American River, we would often see northern pacifics just outside rock crevices basking - both babies and adults.

~Bree

User avatar
PrimitiveTim
Posts: 154
Joined: September 8th, 2013, 8:05 pm
Location: Florida
Contact:

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by PrimitiveTim » April 11th, 2015, 3:26 pm

Anyone can harass a rattlesnake and get cool defensive shots. Sit and watch one from a little ways off for like an hour and see what happens. It takes patience and determination to get a truly unique shot. You might witness a ground squirrel getting nailed or some combat or mating. The reason I personally don't handle hots in the field is because it is dangerous for me and the rattlesnake. I did it when I was younger for the rush and it would probably still give me a rush but for videos that's not really what I'm looking for.

User avatar
Stohlgren
Posts: 603
Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Stohlgren » April 13th, 2015, 6:17 am

John Delgado wrote:This ^^^ is exactly what I am interested in doing. However, the pics I posted earlier of the very brushy terrain make for very difficult den observation. However, since it is so brushy, and therefore a lot of shade ... I'm thinking the rattlers will be looking for sun to bask in during their travels in the mating season.

Early morning sun, or late afternoon before the sun goes down is probably best opportunities, please correct me if I'm wrong. I am NOT here to teach, I am here to learn from you guys ... please help me.
I don't know anything about the ecology of the rattlers in your area, but yes, as Jimi mentioned, I would look for open rocky areas to start your search. These areas provide open areas to bask, but also shade when it gets too hot and shelter from predators. You can possibly even locate some suitable spots to search using Google Earth, so you know where to head the next time you are in the field. You'll learn a lot about what the snakes in location are doing by searching out these areas, and I'm sure you'll still come across your share of snakes in the field just hiking to them.

User avatar
Trey
Posts: 158
Joined: October 1st, 2010, 8:40 pm
Location: NE OHIO

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Trey » April 14th, 2015, 1:00 pm

Here is my opinion on the matter specifically concerning rattlesnakes.

If a snake is encountered on the crawl and fleeing, as they usually are, I will handle it in order to get a photograph. If it is encountered and sitting still, there is no reason to disturb it usually. Simple as that.

condyle
Posts: 206
Joined: September 25th, 2010, 2:46 pm
Location: Santa Cruz ca

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by condyle » April 14th, 2015, 6:45 pm

I'm afraid the drive to handle any "vertebrate" till I was 13 was so overwhelming (in particular venomous forms) only a hefty bite could deter me. Thankfully, newly discovered girlfriends interviend to my parents relief!

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 15th, 2015, 9:31 pm

Trey wrote:Here is my opinion on the matter specifically concerning rattlesnakes.

If a snake is encountered on the crawl and fleeing, as they usually are, I will handle it in order to get a photograph. If it is encountered and sitting still, there is no reason to disturb it usually. Simple as that.
Ya ... based on the very dense vegetation throughout the area of my study, I am leaning toward this method. Them rattlers, my gorgeous hot friends, get to movin' toward that brush right quick around up in them hills by golly :lol: I gots to sometimes grab ahold of'em and sweet talk'em ... calm'em down a spell.

However, my greatest desire is to photograph and video in situ. I have all the time in the world, all I need to do is grab a few shots and enough video footage to edit a 90 to 120 second video. Now, if I'm on an in situ then time is NOT a factor ... I would spend ALL the time I need to NOT disturb the rattlesnake.

In 2014 I would spend 25 to 40 minutes with a subject. Collect 250 digital shots and enough video to edit a 10 to 12 minute video. TOO MANY shots ... and wayyyyyyyyyyy too much video...! - But it was my first year, it was exciting, it was new ... it was heart pounding ... it was TOO MUCH...!

Now, if I have to detain ... I'm thinking I need only 5 to 10 minutes-max with a subject ... 20 to 30 or 40-max digital images and minimal video footage, enough to create a 60 to 90 second video. I like to always make sure to video the release as a sign of respect. Then quickly move on and search for that in situ session.

I think what I need to do is become more efficient with my DSLR camera settings, so I have that confidence in only needing 20 to 40 shots and walk away. And ... 20 to 40 shots is NOT a lot ... continuous frame mode is my friend.

Question to the in situ experienced members of FHF - Do you sometimes handle a rattlesnake to get pics? Or do you always pass up a rattlesnake that you could've caught and move on to the next looking for ONLY in situ?

User avatar
Stohlgren
Posts: 603
Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by Stohlgren » April 16th, 2015, 5:59 am

John Delgado wrote:Question to the in situ experienced members of FHF - Do you sometimes handle a rattlesnake to get pics? Or do you always pass up a rattlesnake that you could've caught and move on to the next looking for ONLY in situ?
I follow a similar philosophy as Trey. If I encounter a snake on the move, I don't have an issue with posing it quickly for a photo. Especially if it is on a road and I have to move it anyways, for it's own safety. Now that I have amassed a good number of photos of coiled, angry, rattlesnakes, I do find myself passing on those opportunities more often, especially if there is not a good photo opp (bad light, ugly habitat). If I were to encounter a new species or one I haven't seen that often, I would likely pose it for some decent pics.

Here are two Sistrurus that were moved off roads and I snapped a few pics before letting them go on their way:

Image

Image

As for "handling", I recommend only using a hook or long stick. No need to risk a bite by tailing (or pinning, which you mentioned you wont do). Plus, bites always make the snake look like the bad guy. (I know this was covered some above, but just reiterating)

Also, don't think that a snake on the move can't provide in situ opportunities. Lots of times they will flee, but often, venomous snakes (vipers, anyways) will freeze when spotted.

Image

Image

Image

User avatar
BillMcGighan
Posts: 2308
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by BillMcGighan » April 16th, 2015, 6:46 pm

Pretty much as has been said: handling moving animals to get them off a busy trail or out of the road is fair game.

Any animal you meet on the road will generally give you a good defensive posture shot. This means these pictures are a dime a dozen. Everybody’s got them.


Image


Image



Animals that are quiet, even in full view, are not worth disturbing; they’re a precious memory in their own right:

Image


Image


Image


Image


This is where binoculars can help.

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Rattlesnake Handling YES or NO

Post by John Delgado » April 17th, 2015, 2:23 pm

I DID IT...! - Yesterday I went out and took my FIRST EVER in situ rattlesnake photographs

Please go to THIS THREAD to see ---► http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=21859

Post Reply