Monday, June 3, 2013

Readers Write In: Is This A Rattler? I Think So And I Don't Want To Kill It


I read your article on relocating rattlesnakes today because I captured this snake, which I am pretty sure is a rattler. This is in the Santa Cruz Mountains and it was against the sunny side of the house earlier this afternoon. It's a baby - so I think it will be okay to relocate it a few hundred yards away into a ravine in the chaparral where nobody travels. Right?

Santa Cruz Mountains, California"

   There are a couple questions here. First off, is relocating a snake a death sentence for the animal? As I write here, moving a snake around does increase the chance it will die. Relocated snakes may wander around more than they do normally and these movements make them vulnerable to being hit by a car or picked off by a hawk or other predator. Relocating snakes also runs the risk of moving the snake away from the shelters they know about and this again can make them easy-pickins for predators. That said, if a snake is dropped off in suitable habitat, there is a reasonable chance that it will survive. So, in some cases it is better for the snake to be relocated than killed.

   But, relocating venomous snakes can be dangerous to people and this brings us to the second question. This animal is definitely a rattlesnake. You can tell by looking at the patterning, the shape of the head, and although it is largely hidden by the snake's coils, if you click on the picture you can see the rattle just to the left of the snake's head.

  It must be snake season in California given the number of e-mails I'm getting about rattlesnakes in yards. I'll admit that I could not immediately identify which rattlesnake species I was looking at in the above picture. But, I was so impressed by our western rattlesnake experts last week that I am going to rely on them again. Please specify how you are able to identify the species and throw in some natural history information for Rock and other Californians that are living alongside rattlesnakes.

Related Blog Posts:

What is this snake I found while California biking?
Can we positively identify this as a California rattlesnake?

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