Living with Rattlesnakes
The exterminator stood in his thigh-high rubber boots and dirty baseball cap, pointing a long metal rod towards a small hole in the exterior wall of our house. He encouraged me to examine the spot so I leaned in for a better look.
“Yep, he could be hiding in there,” the exterminator said casually.
I jerked back, hands clammy.
Why in the Hell did he have me stick my head near a hole that could be concealing a rattlesnake?
“They’re pretty quick too. Gone in minutes,” he noted as he poked around the bushes. Naturally, I was standing under them when he continued, “They can climb trees too.”
After forty-five minutes of patrolling our backyard, the exterminator gave up. He was bummed about not being able to capture a rattler. He’d hoped it would be the high point of his day! Meanwhile, I was still recovering from the shock of finding the damned thing in our walled backyard.
Jim Bob, exterminator deluxe, recommended that we remove all the ground cover, mulch, and bushes in our yard because they offer shelter to snakes. Birds are also attracted to these habitats. Birds and rodents are the main staple of a rattlesnake’s diet.
While ripping out all of the greenery in our yard, we discovered a large snakeskin that had been shed. Juliet promptly had a meltdown because the reptile had stuck around long enough to strip outside our house. She attacked the remaining root balls with new vigor.
Our yard remains in transition but we just had colored gravel poured in place of our mostly-dead grass. Our Chiweiner nearly went to the bathroom on that visiting rattler, which was incredibly well camouflaged. The gravel is a reddish color with a touch of purple. Future slithery visitors should stand out like accountants at a death metal concert!
- There are twenty-four varieties of rattlers. (Two of these, the diamondback and prairie rattler, live in the Santa Fe area.)
- Rattlers don’t always rattle before striking. They don’t have to be coiled to strike either. (Reassuring, huh?)
- Rattlesnakes don’t have ears and cannot hear. Instead, they sense vibrations.
- Rattlesnakes have a ‘pit’ in the center of their heads. This hole is a sensory organ that helps them track the body heat of their prey.
- Rattlesnakes are born live so don’t buy rattlesnake ‘eggs’ at the souvenir stands in the Southwest.
- They prefer temperatures ranging between 80º – 90ºF. Though they can survive in freezing weather, temperatures above this range can be fatal for them.
- Rattlers often hunt at night when their prey is out scavenging.
- Rattlesnakes can bite after being beheaded. Seriously.
- Rattlers do not always inject venom. This is called a ‘dry bite’ and it’s the type of bite that humans receive about 25% of the time. Dogs aren’t so lucky, so watch Fido when you’re outside.
How do I snake-proof my yard?
What should you do to prevent a bite?
What should you do if you are bitten?
What should you do if your dog is bitten?
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.