Monday, September 21, 2009

Dead Coosa County Timber Rattlesnakes

In the last week or so, a few colleagues and readers have brought to my attention a recently circulating e-mail that purports to tell the story of a number of Timber Rattlesnakes found under and around a hunting club cabin in Coosa County, Alabama. All the snakes were killed, including three adults and over thirty juveniles. It's been a big snake year for Coosa County, already a coral snake has been found there after being undetected for forty years and I recently heard of a pigmy rattlesnake that was found dead on the road (often a useful means of finding rare snakes).

From the e-mail I received:

"Went to our hunting club in Rockford , AL for clean up day and here are some pics of what we found. These pictures are of what came from under the front steps of the club house!...I have heard of two tales in my life of people encountering a hoard of snakes like this but I have never seen anything like this! One of the members was weed-eating around the steps when the first large one came out. He got his gun and shot it. Then another guy killed another one of the 3 big ones. Then some of the little ones started coming out. Killed the rest with a hoe. Finally poured some gas around the steps and ran the rest of them out and you can see in the pictures how many were wound up killed..."

I have edited out some information in the e-mail pertaining to the names and addresses of those involved. And I'll give the hunters the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they killed the snakes because they feared for their safety.

One of the reasons I was forwarded this e-mail was because two of my recent posts (here and here) described some commonly circulated pictures of dead snakes with grossly exaggerated stories or descriptions. However, there is nothing within this story or series of pictures that suggests to me that this did not occur exactly how it was described.

Timber Rattlesnakes are known from this region of Alabama and that the incident occurred on a hunting club suggests there were a lot of woodlands in the area; good snake habitat.

Timbers also like to hide under structures (often rock piles), which made the crevices and hide-outs under a rarely-used hunting cabin an excellent place for the adults to take up residence. At least, it seemed like an excellent place at the time.

The size of the dead juvenile snakes suggested that they were newborns and this is the time of year (i.e. the fall) that rattlesnakes will give birth. Thirty four (give or take) babies is a lot for one snake (23 is the most I've heard of for a Timber), so I think it's likely that these babies are from more than one snake. Perhaps two or three of the adults in the pictures were the mothers.

Again, it's hard to fault people for destroying rattlesnakes on their property when they fear for their safety, but killing them was probably their most dangerous course of action as it greatly increased their chance of a bite. Perhaps the snakes would've dispersed into the surrounding woods by the time hunting season rolled around. Perhaps nobody would've ever known all those babies were there if the first adult snake hadn't been spotted. We'll never know.

In the future I hope they maintain their cabin and the surrounding area in a fashion that discourages the reptiles from taking up residence in the first place (i.e. removing brush and hiding places).

Just think of all the rats and mice that are now free to casually explore the hunting cabin...

20 comments:

insculpta said...

Do you guys have Deer Mice and Hanta (Sin nombre) virus?

Anonymous said...
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David Steen said...

Sometimes events like these are hard to accept. However, we do have to assume that the individuals involved feared for their safety. It can be quite intimidating to find all those rattlesnakes near where you sleep.

It's true that they were unlikely in danger. All we can do is try to educate others in a civil manner regarding how to co-exist with our reptilian neighbors, i.e. live alongside wildlife.

swamp4me said...

It is so very sad to see so many snakes killed. Perhaps, as you suggest, this will encourage them to maintain their property and thus discourage the snakes from taking up residence in the first place.
So, so sad. And gasoline? Poured on the ground? Really, what were they thinking?

David Steen said...

Insculpta,

We do have Peromyscus in Alabama but I can't find information on the Hantavirus here. For those that do not know, the Hantavirus is a potentially deadly illness that people may contract after contact with rodents. If snakes are limiting the rodent population, there is a decreased likelihood of this fatal sickness.

swamp4me,

Gasoline surely isn't the recommended method of removing snakes from your property. As if handling venomous snakes wasn't dangerous enough. Fortunately, Alabama recently outlawed the practice of gassing tortoise burrows to catch rattlesnakes.

Anonymous said...

Truly a shame. But hopefully thru the efforts of AlaParc and other more established conservation efforts, future incidents can be reduced. May they rest in snake heaven. Keep up the good work Dave.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

David, my club is in Coosa Co. where we have several thousand acres and a house and trailers; and I can asure you there are pleanty of timber rattlers there as we have killed several this year. So the existence of these in mass although odd, is not out of the reach of reality. Co-existing with deadly snakes who have learned the joys of indoor living is not an option, killing them is.

Anonymous said...

I wouldve killed em all too, But the gasoline wouldve been used to burn the cabin. I HATE SNAKES!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like they did a good job of discouraging snakes from living under their cabin. It is your right to live with snakes in your house. It is my right to kill every snake I find in mine.

Anonymous said...

These are snakes, not people that you see dead in these pictures. These snakes were killed where children commonly play. If anyone wants this living under a house that you sleep in, you need mental help. I would rather kill the rats and mice myself than to have these under my house. If you think this is somekind of brutal act, post you're address and I'll bring a few over,put them in youre living room and film the response! People the rock loving tree hugging can get out of hand.

David Steen said...

Hey, that's offensive; some of my best friends are rock huggers (joke).

But seriously, the last few comments have affirmed the right to kill rattlesnakes on private property. I want to clarify I certainly agree this is your right. Additionally, nobody is going to tell you that killing a venomous snake where children play is an irrational action.

That said, I don't think it's a radical notion to suggest this was an unfortunate situation, regardless of how justified it was.

If you were to dump rattlesnakes into my living room, you'd see me get rid of them pretty quickly. On the other hand, if I see some snakes while I'm walking through the forest, I would never feel compelled to do anything to harm them. Perhaps a hunting cabin is somewhere in between.

If there were children playing in the area I would do everything in my power to make sure they weren't hurt. My first step is to make sure they know rattlesnakes are potentially dangerous and should be respected from a distance.

Again, no reasonable individual is going to fault another for killing a potentially dangerous snake around their house, especially where children play. But I don't know that killing snakes is an effective means of creating a safe environment, as the habitat remains suitable for snakes and others are likely to return. It's my personal opinion that learning to stay away from rattlesnakes and learning how to safely live in the same vicinity is the most sustainable option.

Anonymous said...

also there were 41 baby snakes and 3 adults

Anonymous said...

I am the one who killed these snakes. I don't go around looking for snakes to kill. But if they put my life, or anyone else's life, in danger I will shoot them or cut their head off. Why don't you fight abortion, or something worthwhile, instead of wasting your time here. Save a child, kill a snake? That is what I did.

David Steen said...

I've deleted two comments that I believe were inflammatory and derailed civil conversations about the event described above.

Shawn said...

How sad to hear... It looks like poaching and killing of wildlife is still on the rise. Pity the innocent lives that have been wasted.

Anonymous said...

Yall are some crazy folks who are trying to make this look like a mean thing.....you cant avoid 40 something deadly snakes.....in your area of living.wait till you get bitten and are in the hospital worried about your life then come back here and tell something about sweet little posionous snakes and how cruel it is to kill a den of Rattlesnakes around were you live.

Anonymous said...

You are more likely to be killed in a car accident than to be bitten by a venomous snake in the United States. More than 42,000 people die from car accidents each year and Only about 7000 snake bites are reported with only about 15 deaths. 3000 of these bites are because that person was handling the snake(STUPID IDEA!!!). Almost 50% of bites are dry bites, which means no venom was injected. The best way to prevent snake bites(which are not very common) is to educated. Know what to do, what not to do and figure out why the snakes are there and change it!

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=45207

Anonymous said...

So you people that are criticizing the person who killed these snakes are saying that if you had a 2 or 3 year old that played in this area you would have let these 35 poisonous snakes stay??? What would the chances be of a 3 year old getting bit by a rattlesnake when you have 35 living under the steps you walk down every day.......id say very very likely. For someone to chose a snake over a baby is just sick and mental.

Anonymous said...

COULD YOU NOT HAVE HAD SOMEONE TO COME IN AND REMOVE THE SNAKES TO A OUT OF THE WAY AREA?I WOULD SAY THE REASON YOU SAW SO MANY WAS THE SNAKES HAD A BASKING SITE NEARBY AND THEY JUST GAVE BIRTH TO THE NEONATES (BABY SNAKES)YOU COULD HAVE EFFECTIVLY JUST WIPED A WHOLE DEN'S ABITITY TO REPRODUCE OUT.BECAUSE FEMALE RATTLE SNAKES ONLY REPRODUCE ON AVARAGE 3-4 TIMES IN THEIR LIFE TIME AND IT TAKES FEMALES ON AVARAGE 6-12 YEARS (DEPENDING ON WHAT AREA OF THE COUNTRY YOUR IN)TO REACH SEXUAL MATURITY I CAN UNDERSTAND ABOUT KEEPING KIDS SAFE BUT YOU SHOULD FIRST OF ALL KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR KIDS AND SECOND YOU SHOULD SHOW THEM DIFFERNT SNAKES AND TEACH THEM SAFTY WHILE IN THE WOODS.WHAT KIND OF EXAMPLE IS IT TO TEACH YOUR KIDS TO KILL EVERTHING THEY FEAR OR DON'T UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING IN NATURE HAS IT'S PLACE AND IT'S JOB TO DO AND I'M NO TREE HUGGER BUT POURING GAS ON THE GROUND IS VERY IRRESPONSIBLE FOR THE ENVIROMENT BUT THAT'S JUST MY OPINION