There’s lots to report during the past 1.5 weeks…
On February 26, I came across another unidentified young adult rattlesnake at the refuge where so many others appear to have spent the winter. He or she was basking in the sun but escaped into the refuge, showing me in the process an unbroken rattle of about 7 segments with no paint. No time for photos, either. No other snakes were found basking that day.
I found Male 38 and Female 41 basking in the late afternoon on both 1 March and 3 March. Their body temperatures were 70F & 86F, respectively, on 3/1 and 84F & 90F on 3/3.
On the afternoon of 6 March, Female 41’s body temperature of 86F indicated she had been basking earlier but she was out of sight when I looked for her. By comparison, body temps for animals that have not basked recently have been around 10-14C (50-57F). While I did not find any of the marked snakes visible on 6 March, I did find a new male basking and captured him – CROR46. He has an unbroken rattle of 8 segments, making him relatively young but, at 264 g (9.3 oz), he is a good candidate for a transmitter. I will have to research the extended weather forecast for our area and if another cold snap looks unlikely, he will get a transmitter. I will also photograph his face and compare him to the unmarked snake photographed at this refuge on 14 February.
Just after 10 AM today (7 March) I found Female 41’s radio signal (her transmitter is not from the problem batch) rapidly increasing in pulse frequency, indicating she was cool but warming rapidly in the sun. Unlike some of the other basking rattlesnakes in the area, I have never found her basking in the open, out from under cover; she only exposes a small part of her surface area to direct sun while remaining sheltered. Take a look at the photo below and note how little of her was in the sun, yet her body temperature increased from 48F to 59F as I monitored it over just 20 minutes!
Finally, I spent some time around midday today checking some the favorite places for Males 36 and 37 – both are carrying dead transmitters. Surprisingly, I came across an adult rattlesnake at the base of the hill where both hung out last year. The snake was only partly exposed, with head and anterior body already in a hole and its tail hidden in the grass. Just as quickly as I saw it, it continued down the hole but not before I could clearly make out Male 37’s yellow/red rattle markings. Although I couldn’t capture him (without tearing up the environment, which I won’t do), he was 32 m (105 ft) from his winter refuge high on the hillside… so spring emergence is definitely underway! I have been told by several other people of recent rattlesnake sightings but this is the first of our study animals to be found away from his hibernaculum this year.