Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Giant Rattlesnake From Berkeley County, South Carolina

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Recently another large rattlesnake picture showed up in my inbox but without much accompanying information other than it was claimed to be from South Carolina. A quick internet search revealed some additional details.  Apparently, the snake was killed in Goose Creek, Berkeley County, South Carolina and measured six feet and seven inches long (~ 2 m).  It is now in the hands of a taxidermist.  I also read the snake was killed with jumper cables, which sounds like an odd and dangerous way of killing anything, let alone a large venomous snake.  Let's hope this part of the story isn't true, or at least that there's a rational explanation.

Although I can't confirm the details of the story, it generally appears plausible.  A snake this size is a huge individual but the length is within reason for a big, old, snake.  Today, the cotton rats have one less thing to be afraid of in their neighborhood.

Let's see how long it takes for these pictures to start circulating with a story about how it weighed 80 pounds and was ten feet long (and from your town!).

I've handled dozens of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and have never been bitten.  It helps that I am extremely careful (and sober) whenever I do so.  This applies to dead animals as well, it's possible for your finger to nick a fang when moving around a dead snake.  Fangs may also poke out the side of the animal's mouth, so I'd advise against holding the snake as shown in the above picture.  With a little care and some distance, rattlesnakes don't pose much of a risk.  The safest strategy is always to leave these animals alone, particularly if all you have on you are jumper cables.



Anonymous said...

Hey David,

What do you recommend when people find larger rattle snakes outside of their homes? What is the best thing they could do?

David Steen said...

Thanks for your question.

If I found a large rattlesnake in the woods, I would observe from a safe distance and then walk away. Are you asking what to do if you found a rattlesnake in your yard? My course of action would be to get philosophical about why the rattlesnake was in the yard and how their presence is the price I gladly pay for living in a natural setting. Then I'd observe from a safe distance and walk away.

I've noted elsewhere that I certainly understand the sentiment that a rattlesnake in the yard has got to go, particularly if children are around. It's not the route I'd go, but if you have to dispatch one of these beasts I wouldn't do it with anything that brought me within striking distance. An animal that's being killed is likely to defend itself.


Paul said...

Definitely - if you must dispatch the snake, it's important to do it safely.

But IF one could safely get it into something like a large plastic trash can with a snug lid, then transporting it a safe distance away from the yard into appropriate habitat would also be a desirable outcome.

There may also be local specialists (i.e. wildlife management, not "pest control" folks) you can call to remove the problem snake(s).


David Steen said...

I agree relocating snakes may be more desirable than killing them outright. However, most research on reptile translocations suggests relocated animals have high mortality rates. Considering this and the risk of capturing and transporting a venomous animal, I can't recommend this strategy in most cases.