Monday, August 20, 2012

You Know You're Really Intruding On My Personal Space, Don’t You?

August 4th, 2012. We encountered this Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) as we were driving out of the Oconee National Forest late in the afternoon. We saw it from a distance and could see by its markings that it was a timber rattler. A fat, happy timber rattler. We hopped out and walked up to it. Unlike the Timber rattler we encountered last year that

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.


 A closer views

'You Know You're Really Intruding On My Personal Space, Don’t You? I’d really rather you left.'

It rattled fairly vociferously when we stepped too close and stopped immediately when we stepped back one pace. 

A different view of its head that shows the ‘viper-shapped’ head clearly.

A closer view of the pattern on its back

And the rattles on its tail. This snake had twice as many rattles as the snake we saw in Hancock County last year

It remained in the same position while we walked around it taking photographs. It didn’t coil into a defensive pose like the snake last year.

We won’t leave a snake on the roadway - it's a variation on moving a turtle off the road. We prodded it gently in the hope it would leave.


 It recoiled suddenly and then threw itself forward and at a slight angle away from us, and then…


moved with surprising speed and agility across the road, and...

up the embankment on the other side and then angled sharply off to the right. When it reached the edge of the woods, it...

 coiled up in a defensive posture, tense, but not showing any signs of striking. 

It was testing the air with its tongue and would rattle if we got to close. I’m sure that could have changed quickly if it had felt the need.

A final shot. It’s head is on the right and its rattles are visible on the left.

We walked the few yards back to the truck and by the time we’d started to move, the snake had disappeared into the woods. Yet another example that the Timber Rattlesnake is not aggressive and just wants to get on with its life.

We'd been commenting that we hadn’t seen a Timber Rattlesnake this year and we were glad to see such a healthy one. It does serve as reminder though not to walk carelessly in grassy areas without being on the lookout for snakes. Don’t depend on the snake to rattle before you get too close. This snake wasn’t at all eager to rattle. So by the time you hear the rattle, it might be too late.

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 continue to keep me out of trouble.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resource:
University of Georgia: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Canebrake / Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) – Venomous

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David Steen said...

Beautiful snake. Very light-colored-I'm glad you found it and not someone else.

JSK said...

That's interesting. I hadn't really noticed how light it was. But compared with the snake we encountered previously in Hancock County, it is very light.