Crotalus horridus, that is; the Timber or Canebreak Rattlesnake. Let me hasten to say it was an encounter of the elective kind. The chosen kind. The nice kind.
We were driving down the road looking for wildflowers and we almost ran over it. W saw it just in time and by the time he stopped, we were close enough to it that I couldn’t see it. I didn’t know why he’d stopped. But when I did, I clambered out to negotiate a photo shoot.
It was minding its own business – making its way across the road.
The sight of a big creature looming above it made it nervous and it stopped,
A closer view of the head. If the color pattern wasn’t a dead give-away, the characteristic pit viper-shaped head says ‘venomous.”
It started to rattle fairly vociferously. This was the first time in four encounters with Timber Rattlesnakes that I’ve really heard one rattle. Obviously I’d entered its personal space. When I stepped back a pace or so, it stopped rattling. (Interestingly, other snakes vibrate the tips of their tails; they just don’t have the rattles.)
It coiled up in a defensive posture, tense, but not showing any signs of striking. I’m sure that could have changed quickly if it had felt the need. Happily it didn’t.
Another close look at the handsome head with the fierce-looking eyes.
After a few minutes, it tested the idea that it might be safe to leave. We had no interest in interfering with it any further.
And off back into the brush at the side of the road.
If anything, this last shot is the scariest to me. I keep thinking of encountering this snake in thick grass or brush. It can be hard to determine the location of a rattling snake that you can’t see. And it’s possible to step on one before it rattles if you surprise it. So….
We tend to only walk in areas where we can clearly see the ground not only in front but also to the side of where we are walking. If we have to walk through thicker grass/brush, we use a snake hook to sweep the area in front and to the side, and tap on fallen logs or rocks under which snakes might be lying in wait for an unsuspecting mouse. I learned these lessons early, growing up in Australia, and they’re lessons well learned and never forgotten and, hopefully, they’ll keep me out of trouble.
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- University of Georgia: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Canebrake / Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) – Venomous