Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Rattlesnake of the Season

Late afternoon today, around 5:30pm, Gilbert found a rattlesnake next to a clump of deer grass along the driveway. It was a baby, about a foot in length, and appeared to be a Southern Pacific Rattlesnake.

4/14/10 Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri).

This is the fourth rattler we've seen on the property since we moved here in 2006. Two of the previous others were also baby Southern Pacifics, and another was a 4 ft. long Red Diamondback which I found basking in my herb garden last summer.

As a kid in Taiwan, I used to be absolutely terrified of snakes. Not too surprising since the island was home to a number of venomous species whose very names conjure up images of Dante's Inferno gone wild, such as Taiwan Banded Krait, Green Bamboo Viper, Red-Ringed Coral Snake, Pointed Scaled Pit Viper, Russell's Pit Viper, Rice-Spoon Head/Taiwan Cobra, and the Hundred Pacer (an especially poisonous pit viper which you would supposedly not survive, once bitten, past a hundred paces).

Also feeding my fear was the fact that my sister and I used to cut through a dense bamboo grove near our house (hello...where does the Green Bamboo Viper live?) and that my grandmother, when she was a young woman living in the rural mountainous region of Northern Taiwan, had actually been bitten by a venomous snake. By her own account, it was excruciatingly painful and took over a year for the wound to fully heal. She has long since passed, bless her heart, but to this day I still remember the permanent deep scar around her ankle where she had been bitten. 

But that was then, this is now. Here in California, venomous snake species are relatively few, and in my years of hiking the deserts and local mountains, I've rarely encountered them, and my terror has evolved into fascination and respect. Snakes are not evil, and the rattlers here have a very special role in our ecosystem by keeping the rodent population in check. 

In the end, Gilbert used a snake grabber (yes, you can actually buy these online) and got this feisty one into a bucket. We then hiked up the hill behind the house and released him into the chaparral brush. It's all good, so long as he keeps outta my herb garden!


  1. Yikes. Luckily no one was hurt. Last year I walked out our backed door and nearly stepped on a baby Red Diamondback. And, the baby's are the worst. Being bitten by one is worse then being bitten my mom. The snake that is, not my real mother.

  2. I'd be absolutely terrified of snakes too if I grew up where you did. That's a nasty list I'm happy to never get a chance to photograph. My winters may be long and cold but at least I don't have to worry about venomous snakes.

  3. Wow! I'm not scared of snakes that I know are non-venemous. But the ones that are? You bet I'm scared! There are 4 or 5 very poisonous snakes in my area of NC, and I try not to go walking in the woods in the summertime...your husband is brave!!

  4. Turling, you're right about those baby rattlers. Apparently, they can't control the amount of venom they inject when they bite, so they often end up going all out. When my husband was trying to pick this guy up, it kept attacking the grabber with gusto, and left a discernible spot of venom on the metal. Hubby, being an ex-mad biochemist, thought that the drop was probably worth 50 bucks for the anti-venom trade, but I, being the ever-pragmatic wife, ordered him to wash the offending matter off with the garden hose.

  5. wiseacre, thankfully, we also have fairly cold winters here in La Cresta (cold at least by Southern California standards), which means I generally don't have to worry about rattlesnakes (in hibernation) and grasshoppers (another phobia of mine) from around December through February. That's why I tend to garden with reckless abandon in the winter!

  6. Hi Kyna, I'm guessing you probably have Eastern Diamondbacks, Cottonmouths, and Copperheads in your neck of the woods? They are all pit vipers and extremely venomous. And, my husband is indeed brave and a "Crocodile Hunter" in the making, as long as the snake is less than 12" long. Beyond that, we've agreed that it's more prudent to call animal control.

  7. Kudos to releasing the snake unharmed. I wish more people had your attitude.