Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
teter247
Posts: 40
Joined: July 28th, 2010, 8:12 am

Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by teter247 » October 13th, 2010, 4:59 am

Here is the text of the e-mail I recieved regarding potential selection for rattlesnakes to quit rattling...

My fellow friends and family,

We have killed 57 rattlesnakes on two separate ranches this year. Twenty-four (24) at South Bend& thirty-three (3) at Murray , since mid-May. Not one has buzzed! We provoked one fair sized boy with a stick and he coiled & struck at the
stick a couple of times before he buzzed up and rattled. The purpose of this explanation is that I have been hearing the same from fellow ranchers and hunters in regards to the lack of warning with rattlesnakes. I had lunch with a friend today and he offered a theory about the fact that these dudes aren't rattling anymore. He raised pigs for years and reported that when he would hear a rattlesnake buzzing in the sow pen, the sows would bee line to it and fight over the snake. For the uninformed, pigs love to eat rattlesnakes. Therefore, the theory is they are ceasing to rattle to avoid detection, since there
are plenty of pigs roaming the countryside.. I have a neighbor ranching lady who was bitten 3 weeks ago, twice by the same snake without any warning ... She spent 5 days in ICU, after 22 vials of anti-venom she is back at the ranch and still may lose her foot or worse yet her lower leg.

The days of perceived warnings are over. Keep your boots on and use a light when out and about. As you all know, one can pop up just about anywhere!

You may wish to forward this to anyone that would be interested.


While some of the statements in this e-mail indicate a certain level of "typical rancher ignorance" towards rattlesnakes, it does raise several interesting questions that I was curious on ya'lls input.

Historically, there is evidence that selective pressures can decrease the occurance, and even the appearance of rattles in a rattlesnake species (C. catalinensis), however I think we've all had experience with snakes that choose NOT to rattle until provoked into a pose for a picture, or moved from a location, etc...

The question is, what is the norm? As you all probably have infinitely more experience on rattlesnakes in the wild than I, do you find that they typically primarily choose crypsis first & rattle only when severely threatened? Or is rattling typically their first line of defense?

Also, if the "hog hypothesis" holds any water, is it even possible that the selective pressures incurred by feral hogs would have a drastic enough effect to alter rattlesnake behavior to such a degree?

His account of "provoking one fair sized boy with a stick and he coiled & struck at the stick a couple of times before he buzzed up and rattled" doesn't actually seem all that out of place to me, given past experience with C. horridus in East Texas.

Anyways, just some food for thought. Let me know what y'all think.

User avatar
muskiemagnet
Posts: 1253
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 7:43 am
Location: kaukauna, wi

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by muskiemagnet » October 13th, 2010, 5:54 am

i've heard of this as well. not so much regarding hogs, but human interactions. i think it's speculative at best. if not rattling keeps them alive, than i can see why snakes would keep quiet. the loud ones may be dead already.

i think they rely on camo as first defense. when they choose to rattle depends on individual personality as well as body temperature. if the snakes that were killed were encountered out in the open sunning in the morning, than they may have been a bit sluggish.

i've had a few times with western fox snakes that they rattled and gave away their position. these snakes almost always sit still. the few times this happened was late in the day after temps had been warm. i don't think they would have buzzed if it was in the morning.

this would be an interesting study. as long as all the variables are explored.

-ben

User avatar
dezertwerx
Posts: 809
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:05 pm
Location: So Cal

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by dezertwerx » October 13th, 2010, 6:42 am

Definitely in interesting read.

Ive run into my fair share of crotes and cant really say if more of them have rattled or not. There are definitely many that have not rattled... but there are some that are quick to rattle and even after being escorted to the side of the road and crawl off into the brush.... continue to rattle for a couple minutes.

bgorum
Posts: 618
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Contact:

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by bgorum » October 13th, 2010, 7:47 am

Yea Hah! Redneck science. :lol:

User avatar
Correcamino
Posts: 444
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 11:50 am

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Correcamino » October 13th, 2010, 8:48 am

it is true in a way. It is not that individual snakes are "learning" not to rattle. Rattlesnakes are as different in theior moods and personalities as people. Some are much more nervous or irratable, others are placid and aren't bothered by much. IN areas with a lot of human interaction the more nervous snakes give away their location making them subject to being killed. Over a long enough period of time all that is left are the placid snakes. I have read many debates over this where many scoff at this idea but I know it to be true. There are some areas in the Catalina foothills (Tucson) where I grew up that I visited this summer. When I was a kid, the rattlesnakes were about what one would expect, mixed personalities, some rattled at ya from a distance, some let ya walk right on by. The are is now much more developed and populated, it was basically scattered ranches when I was a kid, now it is mostly subdivision. Interestingly the rattlesnakes seem even more numerous than when I was a kid. I saw numerous specimens of three different species, atrox, molossus, and tigris (60 odd snakes in a week) about 50/50 hiking day and night and some road cruising. I could not get a single snake to rattle. I could barely get a click out of anything, even when moved off the road or posed for photos. I even purposely jostled a lot of the snakes I was shuttling off the road trying to elicit a rattle. Nothing. I have seen many other areas with high human traffic and relatively quiet or completely quiet rattsnake populations, whereas the same species in more remote areas have the mixed personalities. And then there are some areas, especially grasslands where the same species are just insanely irratable.

I have been reading a lot of similar accounts to the one above on Flickr. Sadly the idiots posting don't see the fact that they were two feet from the snake for at least twenty minutes before even noticing it as a good sign. As far as they are concerned the snakes are evil and are intentionally staying quiet in hopes that the people will come closer giving the evil snake a better chance to bite them.

CC

Paul White
Posts: 2288
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
Location: Amarillo, Texas

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Paul White » October 13th, 2010, 9:07 am

I'd say odds are 50/50 of me being buzzed by atrox and probably 3/4 of me being buzzed by viridis :lol: Just my observations out here :p

User avatar
reptilist
Posts: 653
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:30 am
Location: Clifton, Arizona

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by reptilist » October 13th, 2010, 10:35 am

Correcamino is right....I've hypothesised about the very same phenomenon for thirty years.

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

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by hellihooks » October 13th, 2010, 4:03 pm

On the old forum, a few years ago, I suggested that the same thing was happening with a population of W. fence swifts, I cull bout once a year, for feeders. Most 'bluebellies' are fairly easy to approach and noose, but there were always a few 'sketchy' ones that would bail the minute they saw you. After 5+ years of noosing the 'slow-to-react' ones... it's no longer even worth going there... they are ALL 'sketchy' and unapproachable. Sounds like selective adaptation to me... jim

User avatar
Bryan_Hughes
Posts: 73
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:39 pm
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Contact:

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Bryan_Hughes » October 13th, 2010, 6:31 pm

A rather loose observation of mine is that the oldest, largest rattlesnakes I've found also tend to be the least defensive, top the point of making it difficult to photograph them as they just lazily crawl off.

Paul White
Posts: 2288
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
Location: Amarillo, Texas

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Paul White » October 13th, 2010, 7:29 pm

Bryan: NOT my experience! There's one big ol boy that lives near a pond that I see occasionally that is always tempermental...and most of the larger atrox I've found have been more than happy to buzz at me plenty. The baby I found this year (like, a foot or less in length, real young) was fairly placid, the juvies were a mixed bag...the big adults I've found all were willing to warn me off.
I ain't see Fader in a while though. Hopefully s/he will be there next season again :)

joeysgreen
Posts: 523
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 8:09 pm
Location: Edmonton, Alberta

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by joeysgreen » October 13th, 2010, 9:04 pm

I've only seen C.viridis in the field (all in Alberta), and can't recall a single snake that didn't rattle.

One DOR atrox in Northern Texas; I gotta get back to find me a live one :)

Ian

Paul White
Posts: 2288
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:52 pm
Location: Amarillo, Texas

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Paul White » October 13th, 2010, 9:40 pm

Come down here next...oh, May-September sometime...spend a week you'll find some.

bobassetto
Posts: 733
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:01 pm

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by bobassetto » October 14th, 2010, 5:41 am

are the "to buzz" or "not to buzz" behaviors genetic?????........answer that and you may have natural selection operating.....as a result of selective predator pressure.....

User avatar
Correcamino
Posts: 444
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 11:50 am

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Correcamino » October 14th, 2010, 7:09 am

are the "to buzz" or "not to buzz" behaviors genetic?????........answer that and you may have natural selection operating.....as a result of selective predator pressure.....

Why not? We know temperments can be passed down in humans. Mellow dads often have mellow sons, tempermental dads often have tempermental sons. Women are all quick to rattle. I see no reason why snakes can't pass temperment genes down.

User avatar
Bryan_Hughes
Posts: 73
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:39 pm
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Contact:

Re: Interesting Rattlesnake E-mail

Post by Bryan_Hughes » October 14th, 2010, 8:21 am

I feel an E. O. Wilson debate in the wind.

Post Reply