Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Surprise in the driveway

Timber rattlesnake! Crotalus horridus.

A big one.

His tail was raised but he never rattled it.

He was beautiful.

And a little scary.

I really wasn't that close - this is max telephoto zooming.

I didn't realize that snakes had eyebrows.

They make him look agressive, even though he wasn't.

Do snakes bristle their scales? It seemed like he was doing that.


They are sometimes called Canebreak rattlesnakes in south Alabama, but are apparently the same species.

There are six poisonous snakes in Alabama, but I've only encountered three of them. And this is only the third time I've ever seen a rattlesnake. (I've run across lots of Copperheads and Water Moccasins, a.k.a. Cottonmouths.)

I looked it up, and the eyebrow scale is called the supraocular scale.


Dani said...

Great pictures!! Love the coloring on this one.

Katie B said...

Ah Crap! lol
Love the eyebrow scale though. Great pictures, I was wondering how close you were going to get! :)
Did Mr. No-Shoulders meet his end?
Thanks for the camera info, I think I'm going to be needing a new one soon. :)

lawremc said...

Me too---I was thinking how close is she or that is a serious telephoto lens. I can't wait to show my daughter. The eyes photos are great. I always remind her that most of the poisonous snakes in Alabama have vertical pupil slits (only the coral snake doesn't)

Did you let the rattlesnake move on to eat assorted rodents in the yard? Or was he sent on to snake heaven for being to close to inhabited area?

I always tell folks if my choice is a rat snake or what rat snakes eat---I'm all for the rat snake.

R.Powers said...

I love the canebrake title best. These are pretty rare in FL.
Your shots really show him off, any warning buzz?

Rurality said...

Thanks Dani, yeah he was a lot more colorful than I remembered the last one being.

Katie, "Mr. No-Shoulders" really made me laugh! No way I'd risk getting close enough to kill him.

Lawremc, yeah it's a good long lens! :) We have a long driveway so he really wasn't that close to the house.

FC, no, not a sound out of him. Maybe he was too hot.

NCmountainwoman said...

Very nice pictures of the rattler. I have heard that timber rattlers are the "preferred" snake by snake-handling religous cults. They tend not to strike as often as the other rattlers, depending more on their great camouflage.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction to these shots was similar to what I thought when I saw a close up pic of a polar bear climbing through a cabin window: "Wait! You stopped to take a picture?!"

Truth is, I'd probably do the same thing in your situation though not with the bear. But if I'm never knowingly in the same county as a rattler that's okay, too.

Great photos!

Anonymous said...

You're so lucky! We've never found a rattlesnake on the mountain, and suspect they were all hunted out a century ago. I have encountered them in the wild, though, and they are truly non-agressive snakes. I wouldn't need the Holy Spirit to pick one up - just a longish stick.

robin andrea said...

Wowsers! That's quite a big, beautiful rattler. I've never seen one, but I'm pretty sure if I did, I'd try to get a photograph. Great shots, karen. Aren't we grateful for good zoom lenses.

Kathi D said...

Eeeek! What did you do with it after taking the photos?

Anne-Marie said...

Oh. My. Goodness. The snake is beautiful but still, a little close for comfort.

Yesterday, when I was stretching outside, there was an adorable little green snake watching me lazily. Even he sort of creeped me out and he was way smaller than your friend! =)

zenmasterlars said...

ooooooh you are brave!!!!! the photos of it are awesome! I found my first snake today---just a skinny little garter...still didn't stop me from runnin' in the house yellin' snake snake :):):)

mountainmelody said...

Yikes!! Not sure I've seen one of those around here...just copperheads. Guess I'd better watch out!

Granny Sue said...

I've seen timber rattlers but I've never taken a photo--yours are gorgeous.I love the slitted eye--I'm like you with snakes--live and let live, unless they come in the house.

Hugh Griffith said...

The full body shots make her(?) look very recentlly well-fed, or perhaps gravid. Maybe soon you'll have little rattlers about! Nice snake, and great pictures.

SantaBarbarian said...

Gorgeous creature! We've got a few rattling around town trying to escape the fire.

KFarmer said...

What a whopper! I've heard that the number of beads on their tail indicates how old they are. Think that's true? Or an old wives tale?

I'm not particulary scared of snakes but Water Moccasins chase me; have since I was a kid. I learned to be a very fast runner ;)

S N B said...

Impressive! It has been the "summer of the snake" at our house, too. If you are interested, see our "Serpent in the Garden" and "What is it about Open-Toed Shoes?" and "Serpent in the Garden II."
We enjoy your blog.

Rurality said...

NCMW, that's interesting! I'm not going to put it to the test though. :)

Wren, I know what you mean. Long lens though, very long lens!

Dave, I didn't feel the need to pick him up at all! I read that they can strike faster than the human eye can track, and up to 2/3 their body length, and they don't have to coil back to do it. There was plenty of room to give him a wide berth, and I did!

Robin, oh yes! Very grateful. :)

Kathi, gave it a wide berth. A very, very wide berth.

Anne-Marie, I have to admit that I love the little green snakes best of all. They really do seem curious!

Lauren, something about living out in the country makes me much less fearful of them. Don't know why!

MM, yeah Copperhead is the poisonous one we see most too. But they tend to run away at top speed, for which I'm profoundly grateful. :)

GS, at our old house there was a rattler that kept trying to come in our garage. I think there was something wrong with it because that doesn't seem normal.

Hugh, I don't know enough about that to comment - I don't even know how to tell a male from a female... you'd probably have to turn them over. Not me!

Jill, I never thought about that - I'll bet you have more than a few!

KF, I'd always heard one rattle equals one year, but online sources say that's not true, that it's one rattle per shed skin... which might be more than once per year.

SNB, eek, open toed shoes?! I'll go look, but I'm almost afraid to. :)

Gail said...

yikes! That is some scary snake!

You and your tele-photo lens were able to zero in and take some great photos!

I have seen poisonous snakes in my yard but not recently...I know they are hiding in the way back!

clay and limestone

Rurality said...

Gail, thanks, I'd hate to think of rattlesnakes coming into the yard. If they're scared of ducks, I'm covered. :)

lisa said...

WOW, WOW, WOW!!! What amazing pictures! I think snakes are just exquisite and beautiful, and I'm so glad you appreciated the beauty and didn't just kill it. Wow.

cyndy said...

Crotalus HORRID-US!

I would not like to meet him in my driveway...
I would not like to meet him at all!

I once saw a timber rattlesnake (in his dark phase) shoot a stream of venom - looked like someone turned a hose on! He didn't rattle either.

Pamela said...

was he thinking about molting or whatever it is when they grow and lose their skin? Maybe that is what he was doing with his scales.

Beautiful (I guess?) as much as they scare me. We only have rattlers here. None of those other scary ones.

Eric Bronson said...

Whoaaaa! Better steer clear of him!

Anonymous said...

Krikey! Bravo on the photo. You really captured the texture well. He looked like he might have already eaten his lunch, so hopefully he slithered away for a quiet, sunny spot to digest?

Rebekah said...

Pretty much freaking out over those photos! Incredible that you could keep your hands steady enough to take these pics. Wow. I think I would have just fainted...

Dana said...

You know, I have to say you are a great photographer! But I hate, I hate, I hate snakes! (shudder)

But if I had a zoom that good, I'd probably climb up on a truck or something, or the roof, and take a few shots.

animtreebird said...

Very beautiful snake. Nice photos. :)))

Anonymous said...

Great question about the "bristled" scales. I tried to find info online about snakes bristling their scales when agitated, but was not able to find anything. I have worked with many snakes, quite a few agitated ones, and have never seen any other snake species that seemed to have bristled scales.

So I'm going to say that this snake was not bristling its scales, but that this is just the normal look for this rattlesnake species. I looked up a few more pics of rattlers, and the scales running along their backs do seem to stick up more than other snakes.

Beautiful pics!

Unknown said...

Wow, a great find and a beautiful snake.

A fine point: rattlesnakes aren't poisonous, they're venomous. Poison is ingested and venom is injected.

Hope to see more reptile posts.

Rurality said...

David, thanks for correcting me on that! That will be a challenge, to change my brain on that point... I've been calling them "poisonous" since I was a kid! If I slip up again, feel free to remind me again. :)

Rurality said...

David, by the way, in case you come back here - I really like your blog, I just can't seem to comment on any blog with that kind of comment set-up. Sends me off to never-never land every time.

EasternSierra said...

Wonderful photos of a Timber Rattler. And it's really nice to see someone appreciate the animal and take the time to learn about it, instead of lopping off it's head with a shovel. Fantastic photos!

If you want to see a snake with eyebrows...look for photos of a Mojave Desert Sidewinder...

Wonderful photos again!