The 2016 rattlesnake season is underway

After some limited basking by a couple of telemetered rattlesnakes and short movements by Female 41 and Male 49 two weeks ago, the return of cool cloudy weather sent these animals underground again. Then, despite several days of sunny weather last week, the rattlesnakes remained cool and out of sight – with the exception of Male 49. While Female 41 stayed underground and cold, he napped most afternoons in the sun just a couple feet away.

But yesterday, everything changed. Males 37 and 38 who spent the winter near the top of the bluff had moved down; one was out of sight under a log and the other was in an ambush coil in the grass under a small fig tree.

CROR38, first sighting of the year; 29 February 2016 Original RAW IMG_0195.CR2
My first look at Male 38 this year. He appeared to be hunting at the base of the bluff, just a few dozen yards from where he spent the winter on the hillside.

A rapidly pulsing transmitter told me before I arrived that my underweight geriatric Male 40 had survived another winter and was in the sun at his winter shelter.

CROR60 at RFG02, first 2016 sighting; 29 February 2016; Effie Yeaw Nature Center Original RAW IMG_0177.CR2
My old friend, Male 40, made it through another winter. Over two seasons, he has moved very little and I have never found him courting a female. This is my first look at him this year. He had a body temperature of 88F when this photo was taken. Although he may have had more surface area exposed to the sun before I arrived, it takes very little exposed skin to dramatically raise their body temperature on a sunny windless day.
Non-telemetered Male 49 (foreground) and telemetered Female 41 (background)
Male 49 (foreground, no transmitter) and telemetered Female 41 (background). Female 41 was underground with a body temperature of 52F on Sunday but had a body temp of 86F when this photo was taken yesterday (24 hours later).

Female 41 was in the sun with Male 49 laying partly on top of her, although I saw no active courtship during my brief visit.

Other telemetered snakes had moved short distances but were out of sight when I was there yesterday. But in my travels, I also sighted five unmarked rattlesnakes basking, including a beautiful little female sporting a food bolus about the size of a vole – so she has already fed successfully.

So for the next three months or so, females will be trying to eat as much as they can to nourish their next brood while males will be wandering all over the place (and hunting less) in search of receptive females. It is during this time that male rattlesnakes tend to turn up in yards and on trails, producing interactions with people.

Remember that rattlesnakes want nothing to do with something the size of a person. Leave them alone and they will be happy to avoid you, too!

5 thoughts on “The 2016 rattlesnake season is underway”

  1. Mike,
    I just wanted to say that I find your study fascinating. I have always been fascinated with rattlesnakes and think it is great to see someone showing that they are not the scary creatures that they have the reputation of being. My grandmother lives at the north end of Effie Yeaw and we have encountered numerous rattlesnakes over the years. I am a wildlife technician and understand the importance of a study like this. I have no idea if you want public input, but I would be glad to let you know of any rattlesnakes found on the property.

    1. Hi Garrett,

      Thanks for the kind comments. I would be happy to have your input and that of your grandmother. Of particular interest would be the appearance of a rattlesnake with brightly colored paint in the rattle. While I have eleven animals radio-tagged right now, there are nearly 40 others marked but without radios. One of my major interests is how often the rattlesnakes from the river bottom wander into the residential area. So far, it is not often, based on the telemetered ones. But sightings of the others would be great data, too. Because your grandmother is actually adjacent to Effie Yeaw’s property, I would be happy to remove any rattlesnakes that turn up on her property (and mark them and release them back in the preserve). We have no snakes marked that far north and any that turn up in her yard (marked or unmarked) during the study would be very interesting, indeed!

      Sorry for the late response but the vast majority of comments to the site are spam and, as a result, I often don’t go through them often. Please excuse the delay in answering.

      Thanks for contacting me!

      Best,

      Mike
      909-553-4091 (cell)

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